Number of Flights Worldwide in 2022/2023: Passenger Traffic, Behaviors, and Revenue

What is the number of airline flights worldwide?
Global airline flights to be completed in 2021 are projected to reach 22.2 million—a sharp decline from the projected 40.3 million in 2020, had COVID-19 not occurred. In terms of passenger numbers, these flights are estimated to ferry 2.8 billion passengers in 2021. Market projections place the figure at 16.4 million airline flights in 2020 post-COVID 19.

Source: IATA 2021

The number of domestic and global airline flights worldwide is an estimated 22.2 million in 2021 (IATA, 2021). After a consistent upward trend until 2020, COVID-19 occurred and brought its 3.2% annual growth to a steep decline of 46.77%, as of February 2021 (OAG, 2021). This resulted in a net loss of $118.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to continue in 2021, which has a predicted $15.8 billion net loss by the end of the year (IATA, 2020).

2020 was the worst year in history in terms of air travel demand, with the rate for international travel dropping by 75.6% and domestic travel by 48.8% (IATA, 2021). Furthermore, the numbers are down across all metrics, from air traffic to bookings. A slight recovery is expected in 2021 but the outlook is still dim due to the persistence of COVID-19 globally.

This article looks into the airline industry’s number of flights and passengers, flight statistics, traveler demographics, and industry growth projections by looking into the following topics:

How many airline flights occurred in the world per day in 2021?

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of daily flights dropped from 106,849 flights per day in 2019 to 74,297 in March 2020 (Statista, 2020). As of February 2021, the number is back up to around 151,435, down by 27,407 from the same period in 2020 (Flightradar24, 2021), which was prior to the pandemic. These only count commercial flights and do not include private chartered flights, freight, and military flights.

How many airline flights per year?

The year 2020 had over 16 million global flights. Prior to COVID-19, the Federal Aviation Administration affirms its Air Traffic Organization (ATO) has handled 45,000 local flights a day or over 16,405,000 a year (FAA, 2020).

How many people fly each year worldwide?

The number of passengers who flew in and out of US airports was 2,900,000 (FAA, 2020) based on data from the FAA prior to the pandemic. Worldwide passenger numbers from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) place the number of people who flew annually at 4.5 billion.

What percentage of the world flies?

Dennis A. Muilenburg, former Boeing CEO, has claimed that only about 20% of the world’s population has traveled by air. This is roughly 1.5 billion people. For Americans, the results show 40% have never left the country while 13% have never flown on a plane (Forbes, 2019).

Percentage of People Who Have Never Flown

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Source: OnePoll

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Airlines with the most flights

With over 1,100 airlines and a market of over 7 billion potential flyers, only a limited number of airlines handle multiple flight legs and millions of passengers. In terms of fleet size and the number of passengers, American Airlines is number one (Flight Airline Business, 2020, Blue Swan Daily, 2019).

Source: Flight Airline Business

How many international airlines are there in the world?

The IATA and ICAO, leading groups in aviation and the airline industry, has assigned airline codes to over 5,000 airlines that offer local, regional, and international airlines. The actual number of commercial airlines total 1,126. Europe has the highest number of commercial airlines while the Australasian and Pacific region has the smallest.

Source: IATA, ICAO

Airlines with the most international flights

There are 195 countries where people can travel to—flights come and go to these countries; international flights available from various global carriers. An unexpected airline, Turkish Airlines, earns the top spot operating flights to 62% of the world’s countries (Flight Delayed, 2019). Its strategic location—a middle point for Europe, Asia, and Africa—allows it to service over 60 million passengers a year.

Source: Green Claim

Airlines with most canceled flights

Flight delays and cancellations are common occurrences in airports. Flight cancellations cost American commercial airlines $22 billion annually. The year 2001 saw the highest number of flight cancellations from major American carriers with 231,200 canceled flights. The lowest number of flight cancellations was in 2002 at 65,140.

These disruptions came after the 9/11 attacks; a time when airport check-ins and security saw an extensive overhaul and TSA patdowns and body searches became the norm. Cancellations for 2019 saw an increase of 5.74% with rates climbing back again since 2017. In January 2020, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics states domestic flight cancellations were at 1.3%, higher than December 2019 rates (1.1%) but 64.52% lower compared to January 2019 rates (3.15) (Bureau of Transportation, 2020).

According to a 2020 study by Colibra, there is an airline whose vast majority of flights result in cancellations. Air Arabia has the highest frequency of cancellations among all airline companies with a startling 91.63% (Colibra, 2020), followed by China Eastern Airlines (37.62%) and AOM French Airlines (32.35%).

Source: Colibra 2020

Airlines with the most delayed flights

Jin Air has the highest percentage of delayed flights at 85.48% (Colibra, 2020), which was followed by another South Korean budget airline Jeju Air with a percentage of 64.15%. Indonesia’s Lion Air came in third while fourth place belongs to Ethiopian Airlines.

Source: Colibra 2020

Airline with most on-time flights

Data from OAG reveals that Hawaiian Airlines leads the pack in terms of punctuality with an on-time percentage of 87.40% (OAG, 2020). Delta Airlines comes in second with 83.56%, followed by Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines. Two of Delta’s competitors, American Airlines and United, takes the 8th and 9th spots, respectively.

Source: OAG 2020

Airline flight stats by country

The aviation industry was devastated by COVID-19 in 2020 and the succeeding year won’t likely exhibit a full recovery. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 65 airline companies canceled all of their flights (Airsavvi, 2020). In addition, the number of flights worldwide decreased by 22.5 million compared to that of 2019 (IATA, 2020). The year-on-year flight frequency for nearly the entire 2020 was down and it extended to the beginning of 2021.

Source: OAG 2021

Worldwide passenger traffic sank across all regions worldwide in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic (IATA, 2021). The hardest hit were the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions but COVID-19 sent aviation industries in every continent reeling.

Source: IATA 2021

In 2021, the Asia Pacific region owns the biggest share of the global aviation industry at 38.64% (IATA, 2021). Europe comes in second as it has overtaken North America in terms of market share.

Source: IATA 2021

Countries with the most number of flights

The US leads in number of passengers carried, 926.74 million, in 2019 (The Global Economy, 2019). China claims the second spot with more than 659 million passengers, followed by Ireland with over 170 million. International flights typically use an Airbus A380, which has a seating capacity of 868.

Source: 2019

The numbers can be confusing with stats claiming varied data about air travel in the US.

Although incomes are dropping and its middle-class is shrinking, the US remains a popular tourist destination and continues to be a tourist draw. Its biggest market is local–67.3% are intraregional travelers while the other 32.71% flew to other continents. Meanwhile, for US travelers, Mexico comes as the most popular international destination (Statista, 2020).

Source: Statista 2020

Which country goes abroad the most?

In 2019, Finland topped the list of countries whose people travel the most. The Northern European country averaged 7.5 trips per person per year. The US is in second place with 6.7 trips per person but leads in domestic trips with 6.5 trips per person; data corroborates intraregional traveler data in the previous section. All of the ten countries in the list are classified as First World with high living standards (World Atlas, 2019).


Traveler demographics and behaviors

Traveler preferences and attitudes have changed post-9/11 alongside sweeping technological advancements in the airline industry. General traveler satisfaction after a flight is steady at 75% for the last three years (2017 – 2019). The scores vary depending on location with Africa garnering the lowest passenger satisfaction score of 40%.


Passenger satisfaction drivers include check-in—self-service or traditional, boarding, inflight entertainment, and border control and immigration, among others. The last of the aforementioned hovers at 62%–64% based on the results from 2017–2019.

Source: IATA

What age group travels the most?

The general and widely held view is that Millenials and Gen-Z are the age groups that travel the most. Data from IATA’s Global Passenger Survey reveal three age groups who travel the most: Gen Y, Millenials, and Gen X. Of the three, Millenials or those in the 35–44 year-old range flies the most, internationally and domestically.

Source: IATA

Traveler preferences based on gender

Business travel arrangements were primarily booked by women as stated in a 2018 study (Medium, 2018). Some of the interesting outcomes from the survey include: Women like to travel solo and they often do the bookings. In fact, 80% of travel decisions are made by women (Gutsy, 2019).

Female Preferences in Air Travel

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Source: Access 2020, Gutsy 2019

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Which gender travels more?

IATA’s study shows a 41.27% skew in favor of males when it comes to travel. Data for the last five years show that men travel three times more than women. The same ClosinGap study points out that although men travel more, women spend more during travel. Travel expenses are centered on hotels and tourist services. The study further notes that if women were to travel as much as men did, they would be able to generate 2.35 billion euros a year.

Airline Revenue

The IATA and ICAO report worldwide revenue based on passenger air traffic at $567 billion for 2019. Market projections for 2020 were positive in the last quarter of 2019 with 40.3 million flights forecasted. This approximates to an expected $581 billion in revenue earnings for 2020.

Source: IATA; ICAO

Two leading airline groups are neck and neck in revenues earned for 2019: American Airlines with $44.54 billion and Delta Airlines with $44.44 billion. FedEx, at number five with $37.33 billion, does not fly passengers commercially but only deals in moving cargo.

Source: Flightglobal

Airline travel in the time of COVID-19

Major adjustments were seen in the market projections of airlines in recent weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major airlines scrambled to reshuffle and reschedule flights with multiple countries crossing their borders effectively shutting down travel. Business Insider reports over 50 airlines have scaled back operations or have temporarily shut down due to loss of demand for flights (Business Insider, 2020).

Countries With Completely Closed Borders Due To Covid-19

1. Canada 21. Spain
2. Chile 22. Germany
3. Argentina 23. Denmark
4. Bolivia 24. Greece
5. Peru 25. Serbia
6. Panama 26. Hungary
7. Colombia 27. Ukraine
8. Suriname 28. Poland
9. Ecuador 29. Latvia
10. Costa Rica 30. Kazakhstan
11. Honduras 31. Uzbekistan
12. El Salvador 32. Yemen
13. Guatemala 33. Saudi Arabia
14. Ghana 34. Iraq
15. Cameroon 35. Oman
16. Kenya 36. Sri lanka
17. Sudan 37. Malaysia
18. Libya 38. Philippines
19. Tunisia 39. Australia
20. Egypt 40. New Zealand



  1. Airsavvi (2020). Flight suspension rate of global airlines due to COVID-19 as of March 23, 2020. Retrieved from Statista
  2. Bond, M. (2019, June 8). Women Travel Statistics from Women Travel Expert. Retrieved from Gutsy
  3. Blijdenstein, J. (2019, January 16). Which airlines fly to the largest number of countries?. Retrieved from Flight Delayed
  4. Blue Swan Daily (2019). Top Global Airlines in 2019, by Fleet Size. Retrieved from Statista
  5. Buchholz, K. (2020, December 10). The Most Popular Destinations for U.S. Travelers Abroad. Retrieved from Statista
  6. Colibra (2020, October 6). These are the airlines and airports with the most delays and cancellations, our new study reveals. Retrieved from Colibra
  7. FAA (2020). Air Traffic By The Numbers. Retrieved from FAA
  8. Flight Airline Business (2020, October). Leading airline groups worldwide in 2019, based on passengers. Retrieved from Statista
  9. Flightradar24 (2021). Flight tracking statistics. Retrieved from Flightradar24
  10. IATA (2020, November). Number of flights performed by the global airline industry from 2004 to 2021. Retrieved from Statista
  11. IATA (2020, November 24). IATA Annual General Meeting 2020: Deep Losses Continue Into 2021. Retrieved from IATA
  12. IATA (2021, February 3). 2020 Worst Year in History for Air Travel Demand. Retrieved from IATA
  13. IATA (2020, November). Number of flights performed by the global airline industry from 2004 to 2021. Retrieved from Statista
  14. McCarthy, N. (2020, March 31). COVID-19: Unprecedented Decline In Air Traffic. Retrieved from Statista
  15. Novakova, S. (2018, July 6). Why women book more trips than men do. Retrieved from Medium
  16. OAG (2021). The Journey to Recovery Starts Here: How and When Will Aviation Recover From COVID-19?. Retrieved from OAG
  17. OAG (2020). Punctuality League 2020. Retrieved from OAG
  18. Sheth, K. (2019, March 15). . Retrieved from World Atlas
  19. The Global Economy (2019). Airline Passengers – Country Rankings. Retrieved from The Global Economy
Allan Jay

By Allan Jay

Allan Jay is FinancesOnline’s resident B2B expert with over a decade of experience in the SaaS space. He has worked with vendors primarily as a consultant in the UX analysis and design stages, lending to his reviews a strong user-centric angle. A management professional by training, he adds the business perspective to software development. He likes validating a product against workflows and business goals, two metrics, he believes, by which software is ultimately measured.

Sanja says:

I was wondering what the definitions for “pre-COVID” and “post-COVID” in 2020 are? (1st chart “Number of Flights from 2004 to 2021”)

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