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New research from the International Air Transport Association revealed that airlines around the world carried 4.4 billion passengers in 2018, an increase of 6.9 percent from the previous year.

The IATA also found that efficiency reached record-breaking numbers, as 81.9 percent of available seats were filled. Fuel efficiency also improved by more than 12 percent when compared to 2010 figures.

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Low-cost carriers boasted the most growth, with the segment increasing by 13.4 percent in terms of available seat miles. The budget-airline sector accounted for 29 percent of global seats in 2018, up from 16 percent in 2004.

“Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before. The freedom to fly is more accessible than ever,” IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac said. “And our world is a more prosperous place as a result. As with any human activity this comes with an environmental cost that airlines are committed to reducing.”

“We understand that sustainability is essential to our license to spread aviation’s benefits,” de Juniac continued. “From 2020 we will cap net carbon emissions growth. And, by 2050, we will cut our net carbon footprint to half 2005 levels.”

Flight availability is also on the rise, with 22,000 city pairs now connected by direct journeys, an increase of 1,300 over 2017 and double the 10,250 city pairs connected in 1998. As for the cost of air transport, it has been cut in half over the last 20 years.

The region that saw the fastest growth in airline passengers during 2018 was the Asia-Pacific region. In total, 1.6 billion passengers in the region, an increase of 9.2 percent compared to 2017 and representing 37.1 percent of the global market share.

Airlines in North America carried 989 million passengers last year, an increase of 4.8 percent.