Over 56 million jobs worldwide and $2.2 trillion in GDP are supported by aviation, according to a new report released today at the global Aviation & Environment Summit in Geneva.
The report, Aviation: benefits beyond borders, was produced by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) and Oxford Economics. It outlines an industry that plays a larger role in the global economy than many would expect.
"When you realise that aviation, if it were a country, would be the 19th largest economy in the world, supporting 56.6 million jobs and over two trillion dollars in economic impact, you really see the scale of air transport.," says Paul Steele, executive director of ATAG.
Of the 56.6 million jobs supported by aviation, there are 8.4 million people directly employed by the sector, 9.3 million jobs at aviation industry suppliers and 4.4 million jobs are induced through spending by aviation industry employees.
When you account for the part of the tourism sector made possible by air transport, over 34.5 million jobs are included in this total.
Steele said: "Of course, aviation's economic benefits spread far beyond the monetary aspects outlined here. When you take into account the further benefits gained through the speed and reliability of air travel, the businesses that exist because air freight makes them possible and the intrinsic value to the economy of improved connectivity, the economic impact would be several times larger.
"While the numbers relating to passengers are impressive enough, with nearly 2.7 billion passengers carried in 2010, the figures for air freight emphasise the importance of this mode of transporting valuable and perishable goods.
"The $5.3 trillion worth of freight carried by air transport in 2010 represents some 35% of the value of global trade, despite it representing half a percent of the volume. Air transport is invaluable for the shipment of lightweight but valuable goods."
ATAG's executive director added: "The report also expands the economic data to include a view of aviation's social benefits and environmental progress. Aviation is an invaluable part of the lives of modern people and will prove even more so as emerging economies continue to develop.
"It can also provide more immediate and vital links to remote communities, many island states and important relief with disaster response.
"With the sustainable development of economies and the creation of jobs comes the responsibility to carefully manage the resources we are using and the impact that we have on the world.
"All parts of the commercial aviation industry are engaged in ways we can reduce environmental impact – from new technology and operational efficiencies to infrastructure development. The amount of work occurring across the industry is an impressive sign of our commitment to sustainable development."