The number of international air passengers from mainland China will rise by an average of 10.8 percent per year through to 2014, making it the world's fastest-growing market, industry association IATA forecast.

Hong Kong would be the world's fastest-growing air cargo market, with growth seen at an average of 12.2 percent per year in the same period, said International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

Asia is the most profitable region in the world, he told reporters ahead of an industry forum in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Of the 800 million new passengers who will fly by 2014, 360 million will be in Asia-Pacific and 214 million of those in China, he added.

IATA forecast the number of Chinese international passengers to rise to 82.1 million by 2014 from 49.2 million in 2009, making it the eighth largest market in the world, up from the ninth place in 2009.

Airlines worldwide were expected to report a combined profit of $15.1 billion in 2010, including $7.7 billion from Asia-Pacific carriers, IATA said, adding that it expected the region's airlines to earn a total of $4.6 billion 2011, compared with the world's total of $9.1 billion. [ID:nLDE6BD0P6]

All of China's top three airlines, Air China Ltd, China Southern Airlines Co Ltd and China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd, as well as Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd have forecast strong profit growth of between two and 15 times for 2010.

China has been investing heavily in transport infrastructure. It has said it will plough about 30 billion yuan ($4.56 billion) over the next five years into new airport projects in the western region of Xinjiang alone.

China's air cargo volume would rise 11.7 percent per year to 3.8 million tonnes in 2014 from 2.1 million tonnes in 2009, it said. The increase would just trail that of Hong Kong, whose air cargo volume should grow to 5.3 million tonnes in 2014 from 3 million in 2009.

Bisignani urged Hong Kong to build a third runway for its international airport. A third runway is needed and the time to start planning is now.