Airbus and Boeing have argued that air transport growth is linked to the development of global GDP. But that is not always the case: U.S. air travel has been more or less stagnant in spite of economic growth, but Russian air transport is growing fast in the midst of a recession.

More than 100 million Russian passengers are expected to fly in 2013, according to a Transport Clearing House (TCH) forecast, and the industry will show double-digit growth compared to 2012 (see chart). Traffic has increased threefold in the last 10 years—34.6 million passengers in total were transported in 2003.

TCH notes that the share of international traffic will grow to 63% in 2013, compared to 61% a year before. More direct international flights are being launched from the Russian regions, diminishing domestic connecting traffic to Moscow.

Industry statistics are confirming TCH's projections, too. According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, Russian airlines carried 65.1 million passengers on domestic and international routes in January-September, 14.5% more than for the first nine months of 2012. Revenue passenger kilometers increased by 15.7%, up to 172.6 billion; the passenger load factor increased by 1.4%, to 80.8%, the Federal Air Transport Agency reports.

Growth slowed in September, when the Russian airlines carried 8.5 million people, up just +8.4% compared to the same month in 2012. Revenue passenger kilometers increased by 5.2% last month, to 21.3 billion.

By contrast, air travel in Ukraine continues to shrink. According to the country's statistics service, Ukrainian airlines carried 6.1 million passengers in January-September, down 4.3%, compared to September 2012. The slump is mainly due to the bankruptcy of the country's largest carrier, AeroSvit, at the beginning of this year. Recovery is expected to be slow, as other airlines have just started to pick up its routes. Only last month, Windrose Airlines resumed Kiev-Bangkok flights that had been operated by AeroSvit.