Aviation has become an essential player in globalisation. But what does this mean? CT explains …

By Annabel Fuller

Globalisation as we know it is primarily linked to aviation. Before our interconnected world of networks and the world wide web, if we wanted to communicate with others far away, we had to travel (Gascoigne, 2001). In 1903 the innovation of aircraft changed our world (Jakab, 2017). After years of development, diffusion of innovations and knowledge working has grown our aviation industry to over 37 million commercial flights annually (Lee & Mo, 2011). The inevitability that is globalisation has allowed aviation to connect our world.

“It has been said that arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity. ” – Kofi Annan

What is globalisation?

According to Flew, globalisation is ‘the expand scale, growing magnitude, speeding up and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns of social interaction’ (2014, p. 24). More specifically, globalisation is the movement towards a more connected world allowing for a conjoined global marketplace (Maynard, 2005).

For a brief overview of the link between globalisation and aviation watch this short 2-minute video from MIT.


The entropy of Airlines vs Aviation

Globalisation and the airlines are wrapped in a paradox. For those viewing the airlines from a cramped passenger seat, the industry is one of the greatest drivers of globalisation (Thomas, 2011). Airlines are increasing the ongoing interconnectedness that we know as globalisation. At any time, there are approximately 666,000 people in the air (Flight Aware, 2018). While air travel is unquestionably the most efficient way to travel around the world, the airlines remain local in their approach. To honestly assess travel as globalised it is necessary to see the industry as aviation as a whole, not just airlines. The aviation industry encompasses Airlines, Airports, Manufactures, Government, Federations, Staff and Suppliers (REX, 2016). To demonstrate the impact aviation has on globalisation three main points must be explored:

  1. Global security
  2. Global commerce
  3. Global connectivity

Global Security

Acts of Terror such as 9/11 attempt to end the link between aviation and globalisation. Terrorist attacks usually use low-technology weapons which create mass destruction to create fear within us to push their agenda (Mannik, 2011). This agenda typically intends to end our freedom of global connectedness and encourages us to embrace the globalisation movement they preach (Maynard, 2005). However, as terror threats increase,  our world is becoming more connected as networks of defence agencies, manufacturers, airlines and security teams come together to combat this issue (Khan & Estrada, 2016). Not only are airlines globalised by these threats, but airports become better connected with more contact between air traffic control and flights required when safety is threatened (Wolffa & Larsenab, 2014). Therefore these attacks allow us to improve our global security.  While terror threats may aim to deter our globalised world Air travel continues to be the safest form of transport (Aviation Saftey Network, 2017).

Picture by Milana Rastislava on WikiMedia

Global Commerce

While globalisation is the networks connecting our world, from narrower lens globalisation can be explored as an international economy through trade, foreign investment, capital flows, migration and the diffusion of technologies (Button, 2008). Aviation one of the main drivers behind globalisation is connecting small cities with major communities not just physically but financially. The industry employs almost 63 million people and contributes $2.7 (USD) trillion to the GDP annually (Air Transport Action Group, 2017).


“It’s a fascinating look at the scope of the aviation industry and our role in the world, when you realise that aviation, if it were a country, would be the 21st largest economy in the world, supporting 62.7 million jobs and nearly three trillion dollars in economic impact, you really see the scale of air transport.” – Michael Gill, Executive Director of Air Transport Action Group


Global Connectivity

Connectivity is required for globalisation. According to Maynard connectivity is “driven by telecommunications, information technology and transportation of goods and people” ( 2005). In our current global economy, aviation is leading with Air cargo estimated to transport 35% of the value of the world trade, while covering less than 1% of volume (Shepherd, Shingal, & Raj, 2016).  The Boeing Forecast suggests that air cargo is set to reach a long-term growth of 4.2% over the next 20 years, after a recent boom of 10.1% (Johnson, 2018). The report further suggested that passenger growth will stabilise at 5.2 over the same period, while the GDP is forecast to grow at 3% (Boeing, 2014).

Graph by Boeing

The globalisation of aviation is set to continue. With our world becoming increasingly connected due to technologies it is important also to remain physically connected. So, for those who live away from home, why not jet home for the holidays? Aviation is not only the safest form of transport, a significant contributor to our global economy and a powerhouse for employment it is also the hyperglobal way to stay in touch with the ones you love.



Air Transport Action Group. (2017).SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF AVIATION. Retrieved from Aviation: benefits beyond borders: https://www.atag.org/our-activities/social-and-economic-benefits-of-aviation.html

Aviation Saftey Network. (2017, December). Industry safety reports. Retrieved from Aviation Saftey: https://aviation-safety.net

Boeing. (2014). World Air Cargo Forecast.Seattle: Boeing.

Button, K. (2008). The Impacts of Globalisation on International Air Transport Activity.Fairfax: School of George Mason University. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/greening-transport/41373470.pdf

Flight Aware. (2018, November 22). Flightawarelive. Retrieved from Flight Aware: https://flightaware.com/live/

Gascoigne, B. (2001). History of Communication.Retrieved from History World: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=dog

Jakab, P. (2017). Inventing the Airplane, Changing the World.Washington: Smithsonian national air and space museum.

Johnson, E. M. (2018, July 17). Boeing lifts 20-year industry demand forecast to $6.3 trillion. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-airshow/boeing-lifts-20-year-industry-demand-forecast-to-63-trillion-idUSL8N1UD21N

Khan, A., & Estrada, M. A. (2016). Globalization and terrorism: an overview. Quality & Quantity, 1811–1819.

Lee, J., & Mo, J. (2011). Analysis of Technological Innovation and Environmental Performance Improvement in Aviation Sector. International journal of enviromental research and public health , 3777–3795.

Mannik, E. (2011, March). TERRORISM: ITS PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE PROSPECTS.Retrieved from Ksk Education: https://www.ksk.edu.ee/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/KVUOA_Toimetised_12-Männik.pdf

Maynard, M. (2005, March 1). The Global Role of Aviation. Retrieved from AviationsPros: https://www.aviationpros.com/article/10385353/the-global-role-of-aviation

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Wolffa, K., & Larsenab, S. (2014). Can terrorism make us feel safer? Risk perceptions and worries before and after the July 22nd attacks. Annals of Tourism Research, 200-209 .

Featured Image by Nastya SenseiSens on Pexels