Strong passenger demand resumes; record load factor in February
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for February showing a rebound in traffic growth following the slower demand experienced in January, which was owing to temporary factors including the later timing of the Lunar New Year in 2018.
Total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) for the month rose 7.6 percent, compared to February 2017, up from 4.6 percent year-over-year growth in January. Monthly capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 6.3 percent, and load factor rose 0.9 percentage point to 80.4 percent, surpassing the previous record for the month of 79.5 percent, which was set in February 2017.
“As expected, we saw a return to stronger demand growth in February, after the temporary slowdown in January. This is being supported by the robust economic backdrop and solid business confidence. However, increases in fuel prices–and labor costs in some countries–likely will temper the amount of traffic stimulation from lower airfares this year,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
(1) percent of industry RPKs in 2016 (2) Year-on-year change in load factor (3) Load factor level
February international passenger demand rose 7.2 percent compared to February 2017, which was up from the 4.2 percent increase recorded in January. Led by airlines in Latin America, all regions recorded better year-on-year growth compared to January’s results. Total capacity climbed 5.9 percent, and load factor rose 1.0 percentage point to 79.3 percent.
- European carriers saw February demand increase by 6.8 percent compared to a year ago, a modest acceleration compared to a 6.0 percent increase in January. Passenger volumes are trending upwards at a double-digit annualized rate alongside supportive economic conditions in the region. Capacity rose 5.0 percent and load factor increased 1.4 percentage points to 82.2 percent, highest among regions.
- Asia-Pacific airlines‘ February traffic rose 9.1 percent compared to the year-ago period. Demand is being supported by healthy regional economic growth and expansion in the number of routes on offer. Capacity increased 8.4 percent and load factor climbed 0.6 percentage point to 80.5 percent.
- Middle East carriers recorded a 3.4 percent demand increase in February compared to a year ago. Capacity rose 3.9 percent and load factor slipped 0.3 percentage point to 74.1 percent. Carriers in the region faced significant headwinds over the past year including the temporary ban on large portable electronic devices as well as the proposed travel bans to the US from some countries in the region.
- North American airlines‘ traffic climbed 7.2 percent in February, supported by the relatively vigorous US economic backdrop, while the weaker dollar appears to be offsetting some of the negative impacts on inbound travel. Capacity rose 4.6 percent and load factor was up 1.9 percentage points to 78.0 percent.
- Latin American airlines posted the fastest year-on-year growth for a second consecutive month as February traffic jumped 9.8 percent compared to February 2017, up from 8.1 percent growth in January. Demand continues to recover from the impacts of the severe 2017 hurricane season. Capacity increased by 8.9 percent, and load factor rose 0.6 percentage point to 81.5 percent.
- African airlines experienced a 6.3 percent rise in traffic for the month compared to the year-ago period. The growth occurred amid an improving regional economic backdrop. Business confidence in Nigeria has risen sharply over the past 15 months while a reduction in political uncertainty in South Africa has contributed to an improvement in business confidence there for the first time in more than a year. Capacity rose 3.3 percent, and load factor climbed 1.9 percentage points to 67.8 percent.
Domestic Passenger Markets
(1) percent of industry RPKs in 2016
(2) Year-on-year change in load factor
(3) Load factor level
(4) The seven domestic passenger markets for w hich broken-dow n data are available account for 30 percent of global total RPKs and approximately 82 percent of total domestic RPKs
Domestic travel demand rose 8.2 percent in February compared to February 2017, up from 4.9 percent year-over-year growth in January, with all markets reporting increases, led by India and China. Domestic capacity climbed 7.0 percent, and load factor increased 0.9 percentage point to 82.3 percent.
- India‘s domestic traffic rose 22.9 percent, the 42nd consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year demand growth, and load factor exceeded 90 percent for the first time on record. Passenger demand continues to be stimulated by network growth that translates into time savings for air travelers.
- Australian domestic traffic rose 3.9 percent compared to the year-ago period, which was a 17-month high.
The Bottom Line
“All around the globe we see the same positive picture of growth in demand for aviation connectivity. Aviation is the business of freedom, enabling people to lead better lives. Aviation has helped to lift millions from poverty, but for aviation to deliver even greater benefits in future, adequate, affordable infrastructure is a must.
“A case in point is the Latin American region, where aviation already supports jobs for 5 million people and $170 billion in GDP. The potential for aviation to do far more exists, but without concerted action by governments to address capacity shortfalls, the region could face an infrastructure crisis in the future. Within the region, Mexico City is the most critical of the bottlenecks. The current airport was designed for 32 million passengers annually but serves 47 million. The solution is a new airport which is already under construction. But its future has been politicized in the current presidential election. The vital need for the new airport needs to be understood by all,” said de Juniac.