Market Overview

An Economy In The Clouds: Air Travelers' $400.5 Billion Economic Contribution


An Economy In The Clouds: Air Travelers' $400.5 Billion Economic Contribution

PR Newswire

NEW YORK, Aug. 27, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- There is a new global economy with a population larger than Belgium1, a GDP that rivals Norway, and worldly citizens who are well educated and on the move. Like most places, people here fall in love, make lasting business connections, aspire to polite social behaviors, and indulge in an array of food, drink and entertainment. This utopia is real, but it exists 30,000 feet above the surface of the earth.    

Air travelers have built a soaring economy in the sky worth $400.5 billion, with more than $1.26 billion being added every day, according to new research from HSBC.

As the world's premier international financial institution, HSBC is the bank of choice for this air-bound economy, supporting millions of customers traveling for business and pleasure. HSBC's strong presence with advertising and services in many of the world's most traveled airports reflects the bank's strong commitment to serving the unique needs of the world's travelers.  

In a recent market research study, HSBC looked at a selection of recent travelers to find insights about the 11.9 million people flying around the world each day and reimagined them as a country in the sky. Naturally named "Flyland," this is the 25th largest economy in the world2 and a study of its economics and demographics paints a telling picture of modern global citizens.

The typical citizen of Flyland takes an average of four-and-a-half flights each year, spending 30 hours in the air. Some of the most interesting things HSBC learned about the citizens of Flyland were how they make connections in the air.

Love and Friendship in the Air

Flyland is a place that fosters human connection. The survey reveals that two couples meet and fall in love on the average flight. With nearly 107,000 flights a day, there are plenty of opportunities to meet your perfect match.

And it's not just romantic relationships that are created at 30,000 feet. Almost half (47 percent) of air travelers have started a conversation with the stranger next to them; 12 percent have made a lasting friendship on a flight; and 13 percent have made a strong business connection.

The Benefits of Travel

The people of Flyland are overwhelmingly positive about the benefits of travel, with the research finding that travel really does broaden the mind. More than eight in 10 air travelers (83 percent) believe they now understand the world better; with 67 percent claiming to be more tolerant; and 63 percent more patient as a result of travel.

And there are personal benefits, too, with feeling more independent (77 percent) and more confident (73 percent) topping the list.

Etiquette Flies

Like any country, Flyland has its share of social expectations and annoyances. Specifically, Americans of Flyland said letting children kick their seat (65 percent) is the biggest taboo; followed by letting children run riot (59 percent); being rude to flight attendants (56 percent); while taking smelly shoes off (45 percent) and hogging the armrest is just as big a concern as people who drink too much (44 percent).

And like on earth, over-exuberant behaviors can be frowned upon: 15 percent of the Americans in Flyland are bothered by passengers who cheer when the plane lands.

Buy in the sky

The vacation often starts at the airport, and should be factored into your travel budget. Americans spend an average of $51.32 per flight. This includes paying for on-board Wi-Fi ($4.92), food ($11.68), drinks ($4.56), alcoholic drinks ($4.76) and duty free ($32.53), amongst other items. Most air travelers pay for onboard items using cards (72 percent) rather than cash, with Flyland following a growing global trend towards a cashless society.

Cindy Wong, HSBC Regional Head of Marketing, North America, says: "Air travel has become an increasingly important part of peoples' lives in the last 10 years, thanks to growing global commerce and pure wanderlust. It has made more experiences, opportunities and relationships possible than ever before.

"The key to seamless, efficient and worry-free travel is having a bank that goes wherever you go. HSBC is in 67 countries around the globe to ensure that travelers have access to the money, support and services that they need to make the most of their adventure." 

Wherever you're going, these are HSBC's tips to make sure your journey goes smoothly:

  • Tell your bank you're going abroad to avoid having transactions queried
  • Always choose to pay in the local currency when using your card abroad for a better rate
  • Keep track of your spending while traveling via your banking app
  • Check what benefits your bank offers to help make the most of your trip

HSBC credit and debit card customers enjoy thousands of exclusive offers from shopping and dining to travel and leisure, in over 160 countries, with the HSBC Home & Away program. 

HSBC Premier credit cardholders enjoy free worldwide travel insurance and a range of privileges including access to 750 airport lounges and free Wi-Fi around the globe. An HSBC currency account helps you stay on top of global exchange rates. 

For more information visit  

For further information and to request a factsheet of key findings from the Flyland study, please contact:

Steven Vames
Communications, HSBC Bank USA
Global Banking and Markets

Merrie Leininger
Principal, Media Strategy, Hill + Knowlton Strategies

Note to editors

GDP figures for Flyland are an average expenditure per passenger, per flight, multiplied by the number of passengers traveling on an annual basis.

1. United Nations Population Division, Retrieved 22 June 2017.

2. GDP is calculated as the sum of expenditures.

Flyland study

The Flyland study has been commissioned by HSBC July 2018 and carried out online by BDRC. The international 'in air' sample comprises n=2150 online interviews among recent flight bookers over 18 years of age, weighted to represent the universe of global international travelers in the air by location of departure and class of travel, using industry data. Separate online samples were collected among residents of the UK (n=2000), USA (n=1000), Hong Kong (n=1000) and United Arab Emirates (n=1000), flying internationally from each country in the past year.

The HSBC Group

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 3,800 offices in 66 countries and territories in Europe, Asia, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,607bn at 30 June 2018, HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organizations.


Flyland Infographic


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