IATA's global passenger traffic results for
March 2018 show that demand (measured in revenue passenger
kilometers, or RPKs) rose 9.5%, compared to the same month a year
ago, the fastest pace in 12 months.
Capacity (available seat kilometers, or
ASKs) grew 6.4% and load factor climbed 2.3 percentage points to
82.4%, which set a record for the month, following on the record
set in February. All regions except for the Middle East posted
record load factors.
"Demand for air travel remains strong, supported
by the comparatively healthy economic backdrop and business
confidence levels. But rising cost inputs—particularly fuel
prices—suggest that any demand boosts from lower fares will
moderate going into the second quarter," said Alexandre de Juniac,
IATA’s Director General and CEO.
March international passenger demand rose 10.6%
compared to March 2017, which was up from 7.4% year-on-year
growth recorded in February. All regions showed strong increases.
Total capacity climbed 6.6%, and load factor improved 2.9
percentage points to 81.5%.
Asia Pacific airlines’ traffic soared
11.6% in March, compared to the year-ago period. Passenger traffic
is continuing to trend upwards, supported by strong regional
economic growth and ongoing expansion in the number of
airport-pair options for travelers. Capacity increased 8.2%, and
load factor rose 2.5 percentage points to 80.9%.
European carriers saw March traffic climb
9.8% over March 2017, up from 6.9% annual growth in February.
Business confidence in the most-open countries in the region has
been hit by trade tensions in recent months, but economic
conditions remain broadly supportive. As with Asia-Pacific region,
demand is also being stimulated by increases in the number of
nonstop airport-pairs. March capacity rose 6.4% and load factor
was up 2.6 percentage points to 84.6%, highest among regions.
Middle East carriers’ traffic jumped 10.7%
in March, much improved from the 4.1% year-over-year increase
recorded in February. This reflects healthy growth in the market
between the Middle East and Asia. Demand also shows signs of
stabilization on Middle East to North America routes, following
the disruption caused in the first half of 2017 by the now-lifted
ban on large portable electronic devices, as well as a wider
impact stemming from the proposed travel restrictions to the US.
Capacity increased 4.3%, and load factor jumped 4.4 percentage
points to 76.7%.
North American airlines posted a 9.5%
traffic rise in March compared to the year-ago period, well above
the 5-year average growth rate of 3.6%. Capacity climbed 4.9% and
load factor was up 3.5 percentage points to 83.5%, which was the
second highest among the regions. The weakening US dollar is
having a positive effect on inbound traffic, while the
comparatively robust domestic economic backdrop is supporting
Latin American airlines had an 11.8%
increase in March traffic, which was the largest increase among
the regions for a third month in a row. March capacity climbed
10.0% compared to a year ago, and load factor edged up 1.3
percentage points to 81.8%. Traffic continues to recover from the
disruptions caused by the harsh hurricane season in the third
quarter of 2017, driven in part by economic recovery in Brazil.
African airlines continued to enjoy very
strong demand as well, with traffic up 11.2% compared to March
2017, which was more than twice the 5-year average pace of 4.8%.
Airlines here are seeing healthy growth on routes to/from Europe
and Asia, while the region’s two largest economies—Nigeria and
South Africa—continue to improve. Capacity climbed 6.7%, and load
factor strengthened 2.9 percentage points to 71.0%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Domestic demand rose 7.8% in March, which was a
slight deceleration from 8.2% growth recorded in February, driven
primarily by developments in the US market. Domestic capacity
climbed 6.2%, and load factor lifted 1.3 percentage points to
US domestic growth slowed to 4.7% in March,
compared to 6.1% year-over-year growth recorded in February. This
had been anticipated and relates more to traffic trends last year
than to any specific weakening in the US market.
China’s domestic traffic grew 15% in March
compared to the year-ago period. This was the strongest pace in
five months and is being supported by growth in the services
"The strong first quarter provides healthy
momentum heading into the peak travel period in the Northern
Hemisphere. Benign economic conditions are supporting—and being
supported by—good demand for air travel. It’s a
mutually-beneficial effect that smart governments recognize and
encourage, by embracing affordable, quality aviation
infrastructure and reasonable commercial regulation. But we need
to deliver that message every day. The setback to modernizing air
traffic management in the US, and a proposal to stop construction
of the new airport in Mexico, are reminders of that fact," said de
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