By Talia Avakian
September 06, 2018
Maria Jose Valle Fotografia/Getty Images

The International Airport Transport Association (IATA) reported on Thursday that there were 4.1 billion air passengers in 2017, more than ever before and a 7.3-percent increase over 2016.

The 62nd World Air Transport Statistics report, which tracks the total number of passengers flying and the busiest airlines, also found that the “average citizen” now flies once every 22 months, whereas in 2000 it was just once every 43 months.

“Flying has never been more accessible,” said Alexandre de Junias, IATA's director general and CEO, in a statement. “This is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure, and education.”

Those billions of passengers aren't evenly divided across airlines — in fact, just a few dominate when it comes to getting people to where they want to go around the world. Four of the top five busiest airlines, based on the total scheduled passenger distance flown in 2017, were U.S.-based carriers.

The Top 5 Airlines (Ranked by total scheduled passenger kilometers flown.)

  1. American Airlines
  2. Delta Air Lines
  3. United Airlines
  4. Emirates Airline
  5. Southwest Airlines

The report also found that airlines are connecting a record number of cities around the world, with more than 20,000 city pairs in 2017. That's more than double the number of city pairs available a little more than 20 years ago.

According to IATA, the U.S. had the highest number of passengers in 2017, followed by China at 555 million, India at 161.5 million, the U.K. at 147 million, and Germany at 114.4 million.