India will grow to represent the world’s third largest aviation market for passenger throughput after the US and China by 2020, according to the Airports Council International.

Delhi, the country’s busiest airport for passenger traffic, grew by 14.1% year-over year pushing it up from 22nd to the 16th busiest airport in the world in 2017.

Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Madras also ranked among the fastest growing airports in the world with year-on-year growth of 26.9%, 19.6%, 12.9% and 10.5% respectively.

ACI said: “With an astounding population base of over 1.3 billion inhabitants, the move towards a more liberalised aviation market coupled with stronger economic fundamentals has helped to awaken the Bengal tiger to become one of the fastest growing markets in the world.”

Chinese airports were the largest contributors to growth with ten airports with more than 20 million passengers a year each.

After Beijing and Shanghai, Guangzhou was the third busiest airport in China, handling almost 66 million passengers, up by 10.3% year-on-year.

Other Chinese airport hubs that cater for a significant proportion of domestic traffic also experienced double digit growth. Hangzhou, Xi’An, Nanjing and Tianjin grew by 12.6%, 13.2%, 15.5% and 24.5% respectively.

The growth of Chinese aviation has also boosted international traffic on market segments with other regions such as North America.

Asian airlines continued to make important inroads on key international and trans-Pacific routes across a number of airport pairs between US cities and China.

The Chinese appetite for air transport services has the potential to add an additional three billion passengers by 2040. This represents a 21% share of the contribution to projected global passenger traffic growth that is forecast by 2040, according to ACI.

Newly released world air traffic statistics show that demand continued its robust growth across the world’s major airports last year over 2016.

Traffic at the world’s 20 busiest airports grew by 5.2% in 2017 to reach almost 1.5 billion passengers. The top 20 airports represent 17% of global passenger traffic.

Atlanta airport handled the most passengers last year at almost 104 million, followed by Beijing at 95.8 million; Dubai at 88.2 million. Heathrow was the seventh busiest with more than 78 million passengers, ahead of rivals Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

ACI World director general Angela Gittens said: “The surge in cargo volumes and passenger numbers across many of the world’s airports is testament to heightened business and consumer confidence, at least in the short term.

“The world’s airports continue to be a vital link in the economic multiplier effect that aviation provides and the role it plays as an enabler for global commerce is growing.”

But she warned: “The spectre of uncertainty regarding trade policy among major economies comes at a time when global commerce and our industry has recently thrived. The trans-Pacific link, for instance, is an important ingredient in boosting international passenger traffic and international freight volumes.

“Connecting people, business and places still remains paramount to the aviation sector despite the recent threats of a step backwards in market liberalisation in some major economies.”