Demand for air travel rose substantially in 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which this month announced year-end results for the global air travel industry. A key demand metric, revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), grew 5.9 percent compared to 2013, it said, which is above the 10-year average growth rate of 5.6 percent and the 5.2 percent annual growth rate experienced in 2013.
Capacity also increased last year, growing 5.6 percent.
"Demand for the passenger business did well in 2014," IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said in a statement. "Overall, a record 3.3 billion passengers boarded aircraft last year -- some 170 million more than in 2013."
Air-travel demand was strongest in the Middle East, which posted 13 percent growth, followed by Asia Pacific and Latin America, both of which posted growth of 5.8 percent. North American airlines, meanwhile, saw demand increase by 3.1 percent.
Despite the positive results, however, IATA cautioned against too much optimism.
"While it is clear that people will continue to travel in growing numbers, there have been signs in recent months that softening business confidence is translating into a leveling off of international travel demand," Tyler continued.
Especially challenging is Europe. Although European carriers' international traffic climbed 5.7 percent last year, risks remain.
"High taxes, onerous regulation, and infrastructure limitations make Europe a tough place to run an airline," Tyler concluded. "A continent-wide commitment to address these issues so that aviation can play its critical role as an economic catalyst would be a powerful signal that Europe's politicians really do mean business."