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Steve Griffin, KSL

A world on the go: Projections call for near tripling of air passenger seat miles by 2050

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Nov 30th, 2019 @ 9:43pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The $3.6 billion expansion of Salt Lake City International Airport adds more international gates, a good thing since passenger seat miles are expected to nearly triple globally in the next 30 years from a growing middle class that will travel more frequently — both domestically and internationally.

A recent analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows jet fuel consumption, in particular, will increase the most in China and other Asian countries by 2050. China’s jet fuel consumption, the analysis says, will more than triple during that time period.

The analysis says the United States and countries in the Middle East and Europe will also experience considerable growth in jet fuel consumption as more passenger jets hit the sky.

Nancy Volmer, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake airport, said locally, this airport expansion will accommodate more international flights. Earlier this year, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced plans for a direct flight to Seoul, South Korea, from Salt Lake City — a nod to Asian flight trends.

The “new” middle class in these emerging economies will travel, and travel often, according to the analysis.

Overall, jet fuel consumption will increase at a faster rate than any other liquid transportation fuel through 2050, and global jet fuel use more than doubles in the next 30 years, the administration said.

Volmer said airlines are “up gauging,” their customer service by flying fewer flights, but using bigger jets to carry more passengers. Some of the smaller, regional flights are being eliminated, she added.

Other airports in Utah are expanding as well to cash in on the demands of a flying public.

Just last week, officials at the Provo Municipal Airport broke ground on a $40 million terminal that will add four more gates, with the potential for additional expansion in the future.

St. George Regional Airport extended and repaired its runway and is adding commercial hangars. It recently opened after a four month closure.

Freight transport via airlines also grows over the next 30 years, with much of that increase happening in China and other Asian countries, the new analysis said.

In 2018, the Salt Lake City International Airport handled nearly 392 million pounds of cargo and more than 41 million pounds of air mail, according to its website.

Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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