Asia has overtaken North America with 647 million passengers in 2009.
IATA said, "By contrast, 638 million people flew on commercial flights in North America last year."
Director general Giovanni Bisignani of IATA said that the Asia-Pacific market will continue to grow rapidly with an estimated 217 million additional air passengers a year in the region by 2013.
Bisignani said, "More than a quarter of the 2.2 billion people who flew last year, or 647 million people, flew within Asia-Pacific markets. It has eclipsed travel within North America as the traditional leader in traffic numbers."
According to IATA, China has eclipsed Japan with 1,400 aircraft compared with Japan's 540.
Asian airlines staged a stronger recovery in demand in Dec 2009, at nearly twice the global average, while travel on European and North American carriers stagnated or slipped.