So we have N airliner flights in the world each day. What percentage of them are "purely" cargo flights versus passenger flights (that may carry cargo as well)? We can exclude Combi aircraft and other intermediate cases for the sake of simplicity. Thank you.

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    $\begingroup$ There is no straight forward answer. Apart from it being pretty difficult to find accurate and global data, you must also consider how to count flights that carry both cargo and passengers. Some normal passenger flights will carry some amount of cargo as well, and there are planes such as the 747 Combi which has passengers in the front and cargo in the back. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard they should have called it the "747 mullet" $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ The US DoT statistics might be a starting point. They say that in April 2016 there were 755,000 passenger flights and 55,000 cargo ones by US air carriers, but I don't know what those numbers really mean, e.g. how they define "cargo". As @J.Hougaard said, many (most?) passenger flights carry freight anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answers! Yeah, I was interested in passenger (maybe with cargo payloads) vs "purely" cargo. We can exclude Combi and other peculiarities. Thanks for the US statistics! A good starting point indeed. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ Do you include small bush planes or only jets ? $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


The National Air Traffic Controllers Administration states that:

"On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings."

Therefore, if there are 28,537 commercial flights and 2,148 cargo flights;

  • 28,537 + 2148 = 30685
  • (100 / 30685) * 2148 = 7.00016294606%

Thus there's for all of the airline flights taking off daily, 7% of them are cargo, and the rest are commercial.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you provide a link to where you got that quote from, please? Looks like interesting reading. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ Sadly I can't find the quote on the NATCA website, but it could be found on many other websites: link, link2 $\endgroup$
    – adam
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ You came up with some numbers, but they don't really address the question that was asked. The OP asked about the percentage of total ait flights internationally that are cargo flights, and you gave an answer for the USA, with a percentage that doesn't relate to the total number of flights, even in the USA. $\endgroup$
    – mc0e
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 12:46

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