Passenger demand moderates in February
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for February 2019, showing that total revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 5.3 per cent compared to February 2018.
This was the slowest rate of growth in more than a year but was still in line with long-term demand trends. Monthly capacity (available seat kilometres, or ASKs) increased by 5.4 per cent, and load factor slipped 0.1 percentage points to 80.6 per cent, which is still high by historic standards.
“After January’s strong performance, we settled down a bit in February, in line with concerns about the broader economic outlook. Continuing trade tensions between the US and China and unresolved uncertainty over Brexit are also weighing on the outlook for travel,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
In February, international passenger demand rose 4.6 per cent compared to February 2018, which was a slowdown from 5.9 per cent growth in January. Capacity climbed 5.1 per cent, and load factor dropped 0.4 percentage points to 79.5 per cent. Airlines in all regions but the Middle East showed traffic growth versus the year-ago period.
European carriers showed the strongest performance for a fifth consecutive month in February. Passenger demand increased by 7.6 per cent, compared to a year ago, unchanged from January. Europe’s continuing strong performance provides a paradox, given Brexit concerns and signs of a softer economic outlook. Capacity rose 8.0 per cent and load factor slid 0.3 percentage points to 82.3 per cent, which still was the highest among regions.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ February traffic rose 4.2 per cent compared to the year-ago period, a substantial slowdown from the 7.2 per cent increase recorded in January. The timing of the Lunar New Year holiday in the first week of February this year may have shifted some traffic to January. Capacity increased 4.7 per cent, and load factor dipped 0.3 percentage points to 81.0 per cent.
Middle East carriers recorded a 0.8 per cent traffic decline in February compared to a year ago, the only region to report a drop year over year. Capacity rose 2.9 per cent, and load factor fell 2.7 percentage points to 72.6 per cent. Broadly speaking, passenger volumes of the region’s airlines have been moving sideways for the past 12 to 15 months.
North American airlines’ traffic climbed 4.2 per cent in February, a decline from 5.4 per cent growth in January. Capacity rose 2.9 per cent, and load factor was up one percentage point to 79.0 per cent. Signs of softening economic activity at the end of 2018, in conjunction with the effects of ongoing tensions between the US and several of its trading partners, may be mitigated by the region’s low unemployment and generally sound economic backdrop.Latin American airlines saw traffic rise 4.3 per cent compared to February 2018, a slippage from 5.4 per cent annual growth in January. Capacity increased by 5.6 per cent, and load factor dropped one percentage point to 81.4 per cent. Renewed economic and political uncertainties in a number of key countries may weigh on air transport demand in coming months.
African airlines experienced a 2.5 per cent rise in traffic for the month compared to the year-ago period, down from 5.1 per cent growth in January. Concerns over conditions in the largest economies are contributing to the slowdown. Capacity rose 0.3 per cent, and load factor climbed 1.5 percentage points to 69.7 per cent.