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Statistically Improbable

Gary Potter (the Sabre Geek) points us to a company involved in making systems to improve air passenger safety. I enjoy reading his blog to keep up with trends in the airline industry, but today’s offering loses me in the statistical improbability of the company’s argument, rather than its product offering. The company in question cites the need to speed up the roll out of one of its products, Trusted Traveler, by indicating that more than 1 billion people fly every day worldwide. That’s 1 out of every 6 people. I’m a bit skeptical of that number and I’m guess Potter was, too. His entry quickly runs through the math of what it would take to sustain a daily worldwide passenger count of 1 billion passengers.
I did a little research on the two largest countries to see how many people were flying around each day. In India, the Union Civil Aviation Minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, quotes a figure of around 40,000 passengers each day out of their 1 Billion citizens. That figure was given two years ago, but I think even if that number tripled (imagine the infrastructure build out it would take to triple) that would still only be 120,000 passengers out of 1 billion citizens. Statistically speaking, India with its population that represents 18% of the world is only contributing .004% toward Symbol’s assertion of 1 billion passengers a day.
Let’s look at China. China has between 1.3 and 1.5 billion citizens. How many of them fly each day? SARS has probably skewed the numbers that past couple of years, but the fact of the matter is when people need to fly, they do. Last year saw a total of 103.8 million passengers flying in China, of which 100 million were a result of tourism. That puts the Chinese market at around 300,000 passengers a day. According to this article that I found these numbers in, out of the 1.3 billion citizens, flying is only affordable for 100 million of them.
I have no idea where Symbol got their figure of 1 billion passengers flying every day. The number of passengers out of 2.5 billion citizens is so small, that it makes it such that 1 out of every 4 people would have to fly each day in order to be accurate. That’s just not happening (my money would be pouring into the transportation sector if it were). Maybe 1 billion pieces of mail fly every day – that would be a more reasonable number. But in terms of passengers, I would guess the number of people flying somewhere on our planet each day would be in the range of 1 to 5 million. Anyone know of a concrete number?

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