13+ Airline Statistics to Get You in Vacation Mode
Updated · May 20, 2023
What kind of trip would you prefer—business or pleasure?
Flying by plane is an adventure in itself. And being able to do that whenever we want was a luxury we didn’t realize we had—post-COVID we know better.
Traveling has been challenging in the past years, but things are normalizing now.
That’s why we at Web Tribunal decided to gather the most recent airline statistics.
We’re curious to know how the air travel industry has changed during the pandemic.
It’s time to take off.
Soaring Airline Stats and Facts (Editor’s Choice):
- Commercial aviation creates over 10 million jobs in the United States.
- Currently, there are over 5,000 public-use airports in the US
- Public airports across the country operate an average of 45,000 flights a day.
- The US sees 5,400 civilian aircraft flying at peak times.
- An average of 2.9 million people fly in and out of US airports daily.
- Annually, 75 million passengers travel internationally.
- US airline passengers are at about 85% of their pre-COVID-19 levels.
- Nearly 2.5 million passengers flew on the Friday before Juneteenth in 2022.
- Air travelers worldwide will reach four billion in 2024.
Flight History: Key Moments
Nowadays, we get to fly around the world because of brilliant human ingenuity in the past, but conquering the skies wasn’t an easy task.
The history of contemporary aviation dates back to the early 1900s.
Let’s see where it all started.
1. Orville and Wilbur Wright went on their first successful flight in 1903.
In the early 20th century, the Wright brothers were ready to test their first air glider—the Wright Flyer. The brothers flew their kite-like plane a few times on December 17, 1903. The most successful attempt lasted 59 seconds, with the Flyer going up 859 feet.
Today, the Wright brothers are widely considered the inventors of the airplane.
Fun aviation facts: Although they may be the most popular ones, they’re not the only pioneers in the industry—there’s also the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont. In 1906, he broke a couple of records with his airship, the No. 14-bis. He was the first to cover more than 25 meters (82 ft) in flight and then the first to fly 100 meters (328 ft).
2. The first aircraft was used for military purposes.
In 1908, the Wright brothers signed a contract with the US government to produce a military aircraft. It had to carry two people for 125 miles at 40 miles per hour.
The final result was Airplane No. 1, delivered in 1909.
Interesting facts about airplanes: The first military aircraft were unarmed, as they were used for reconnaissance purposes. Fighter planes with machine guns were designed later in the first World War. The first bomber planes were used a couple of years before that when Bulgarian aviation bombed Karağaç in the First Balkan War.
3. Tony Jannus piloted the world’s first commercial flight in 1914.
The first commercial flight went from St. Petersburg (FL) to Tampa (FL), traveling a total of 17 miles in 23 minutes.
Who was aboard the plane?
St. Petersburg’s mayor, Abram Pheil.
Off We Go: Airline Statistics for 2022
The world of aviation may be only 120 years old, but so much has happened in that time.
Nowadays, we can easily reach any part of the globe without even thinking about it.
Just book a flight on your smartphone, and the next thing you know—you’re halfway around the world. Just like that.
4. Over ten million US jobs are linked to commercial aviation.
(Source: Airlines for America)
Airline stats show that commercial aviation is also responsible for $1 trillion of the US GDP. That’s about 5% of the total.
By operating a total of 28,000 flights—and doing so quite well. In June 2022, only 115 flights out of the 21,661 that were scheduled every day were canceled, achieving a completion factor—i.e., completed departures as scheduled—of 99.5%.
Remember that behind those impressive airlines’ numbers are 10 million people doing their jobs so passengers can fly safely and effortlessly.
Fun fact: 330+ million people around the world worked in tourism before the pandemic started. In some countries, the tourism sector employed up to a quarter of the population.
5. Commercial aircraft are responsible for 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US.
(Source: Guidehouse Insights)
In recent years, environmentalists have become increasingly concerned about the CO2 airplanes produce. After all, in 2019, commercial airlines used a record 95 billion gallons of fuel.
Then coronavirus came, and the fuel consumption of commercial airlines worldwide dropped to 57 billion gallons in 2021—which isn’t exactly better, just not as bad.
Fun fact: The price of jet fuel is on the rise. Currently, it’s at $3.26 per gallon, which is an all-time high. Back at the beginning of the noughties, a gallon cost just $0.81. Perhaps it’s in everyone’s best interest to find greener solutions.
6. According to airline passenger data, the number of flyers is at about 85% of pre-coronavirus levels.
Today, air travel is much faster and more accessible than before. Nowadays, 90% of the US population has been on commercial flights at some point or another, compared to just 49% of the population in 1971.
In 2021, the daily passenger count in the US was at 1,638,206—a marked decrease from 2019, when the average was close to 2.9 million.
If we play around with these airline passenger numbers a little more, we find that the yearly passenger count went over 1.05 billion in 2019. Two years later, that number was as low as 597.9 million.
Fun fact: Air travel demand hit an all-time low in 2020. Domestic travel rates dropped by 48.8%, whereas international flights saw a 75.6% decrease.
7. There are 205 commercial airlines on the North American continent.
(Source: Finances Online)
And American Airlines is one of the best. Airline statistics show it has the highest number of passengers (215.2 million) and is the eighth most punctual airline in the country (77.9% punctuality rate). Not to mention that its revenue reached $17.3 billion in April 2021, making it the largest commercial airline in the world in terms of sales.
In 2021, it held a 19.5% share of the US market. Southwest and Delta follow with 17.4% and 16.3% of the market, respectively.
Fun fact: Hawaiian Airlines is the #1 American domestic airline in terms of punctuality (87.4%).
8. The global commercial airline revenue will likely hit $782 billion by the end of 2022.
Back in 2019, global airlines made a combined $838 billion. But a pandemic slayed that number by more than half, leaving 2020’s revenue at just $382 billion.
Things improved slightly in 2021 ($506 billion), and the trend is likely to continue. Granted, projections suggest the annual revenue will still fall $50 billion short of pre-pandemic levels, but it’s still a significant improvement.
Air Travel Statistics in 2022
Is the airline industry recovering?
It’s improving, but there’s still plenty of room for growth. The past couple of years have been tough on many industries, and it will take time for things to go back to normal.
We may have to buckle our seatbelts a bit tighter, but we’ll get there eventually.
9. 5,400 civilian planes are up in the US airspace simultaneously at peak times.
(Source: Federal Aviation Administration)
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) covers over 29 million square miles of airspace—5.3 million of those are domestic, and 24.1 million are oceanic.
So, there’s plenty of room for all 5,400 civilian aircraft plus several other commercial flights.
Speaking of, how many commercial flights are there per day?
More than 45,000 just in the US.
Fun fact: The United States has 5,082 public airports and 14,551 private ones.
10. In May 2022, air travel demand exceeded its 2019 level in nine states.
(Source: Airlines for America)
Air travel data shows that nine US states and territories saw more traffic in July 2022 than they did two years before. The Virgin Islands, in particular, saw 17.1 times the checkpoint volume.
Other states with notorious traffic growth were Idaho (9.7), South Carolina (7.6), and Tennessee (5.3). Montana, Florida, Arizona, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico also saw an increase in traveler throughput.
On the other side of the spectrum sit North Dakota (-25.8%), Wisconsin (-24.4%), and Minnesota (-20.3%).
Fun fact: US air travel statistics show that domestic air travel to Hawaii reached a record number in July 2021—an average of 31,863 domestic air passengers arrived every day!
11. In just one year, 75.1 million people traveled from the United States to the rest of the world.
(Source: US Department of Transportation)
In 2021, the number of passengers doing international trips to and from America was down by 32% compared to the previous year.
US carriers accounted for 66.2% of the passengers, while international airlines transported 33.8%.
Fun fact: The most popular international destinations for American tourists are neighboring countries—Mexico takes first place (39.3 million US visitors in 2019), followed by Canada (15 million).
Air Travel Trends for 2022
How are things on the global front?
How about in the US?
What to expect next? (Only the best, we hope.)
12. On the Friday before Juneteenth, 2,438,784 people went through an airport security check.
Juneteenth became a national holiday only last year—and judging by the air passenger traffic on June 17, 2022, it’s already become a popular travel holiday among Americans.
For comparison, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 28, 2021), 2,451,300 passengers went through security checkpoints.
However, the pre-Juneteenth Friday didn’t go smoothly for many airlines because of a combination of the enormous passenger influx, staff shortage, and bad weather.
The day ended with 1,500 canceled and 9,000 delayed flights.
13. Global air passengers might reach four billion in 2024.
The world’s air traffic might exceed 2019 pre-COVID-19 levels in the next few years. So, if projections are accurate, we can expect a full recovery of the global airline industry by 2024.
Now, projections suggest that by the end of 2022, the count will only reach 83% of the number of passengers in 2019 (3.22 billion fliers), but it’ll be 103% by 2024 (four billion) and 111% (4.3 billion) by 2025.
Fun fact: People nowadays want to travel more—even if that means taking their work with them. Statistics show that “laptop luggers” travel twice as much as “disconnectors,” so we’re guessing collaboration software will see a rise in usage along with the global air traffic.
14. The world’s largest passenger airplane is Airbus A380-800.
(Source: Flying Mag)
The wingspan of the A380 giant is 262 feet (length: 238 feet; height: 79 feet). Its standard four-class configuration can fit 545 passengers.
Among the passenger airlines that use the Airbus A380 are Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and British Airways.
Fun fact: These superjets can be customized upon order. Some even come with a luxurious shower in first class.
Humankind conquered the skies 120 years ago.
Ever since, there have been highs and lows—lately, one very deep low—but let’s look at the bright side: airline statistics suggest the latest challenging period will soon be over.
So, let’s pack our suitcases and take off to a tropical island—or maybe just cross a few state lines, whatever your budget allows.
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