The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for October showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) rose 6.3% compared to the same month last year. This marked a rebound from 5.5% growth recorded in September, which was an eight-month low. Capacity also grew 6.3% and load factor was flat at 81.1%, matching last year’s record for the month.
“October’s healthy performance is reassuring after the slower demand growth in September—some of which was attributable to weather-related disruptions. However, the bigger picture is that traffic growth has moderated compared to earlier in the year, reflecting a more mixed economic backdrop and reduced demand stimulation from lower fares,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
October international passenger demand rose 6.3% compared to October 2017, up from 5.1% growth in September. Airlines in all regions recorded gains. Total capacity climbed 6.1%, and load factor increased 0.1 percentage point to 79.8%.
• European carriers’ October demand climbed 7.5% over October 2017, which was the strongest growth among regions and well up on the 5.3% increase for September. Capacity rose 7.0% and load factor edged up 0.4 percentage point to 85.2%, highest among regions. Given mixed signals on the economic situation for the region, it’s unclear if the rebound is sustainable.
• Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic rose 5.8% compared to the year-ago period, up from 5.4% year-over-year growth in September. Capacity climbed 5.4% and load factor rose 0.3 percentage points to 78.9%. Underlying passenger demand is continuing to be supported by structural changes, including rising living standards in the region, as well as network changes that stimulate demand.
• Middle East carriers experienced a 4.4% rise in demand in October compared to last year, slowest among the regions for the seventh time in 12 months. It was, however, an increase over the 3.3% increase in September. Capacity increased 6.4%, and load factor slid 1.3 percentage points to 69.8%, lowest among regions. Carriers have been buffeted by policy measures and geopolitical tensions in recent years, including the ban on portable electronic devices and travel restrictions. However, while volatile, passenger volumes are trending up solidly in seasonally-adjusted terms.
• North American airlines’ traffic climbed 5.6% in October compared to the year-ago period, up from 4.9% growth in September. Strong momentum in the US economy is helping to drive robust international demand. Capacity rose 3.7% and load factor surged 1.4 percentage points to 80.4%.
• Latin American airlines were the only carriers to experience a slowdown in growth as demand rose 5.9% versus 6.3% in September. Capacity climbed 9.1%, and load factor dropped 2.4 percentage points to 80.4%.
• African airlines’ traffic grew 6.8% year-on-year in October, raised from 6% annual growth in September. The upward trend in passenger demand remains strong notwithstanding challenges in the economic backdrop of the continent’s largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa. Capacity rose 5.5%, and load factor climbed 0.9 percentage point to 70.3%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Domestic demand climbed 6.4% in October compared to October 2017, unchanged from September, while capacity rose 6.7%. Load factor slipped 0.2 percentage point to 83.3%. China, India and Russia led all markets with double-digit growth rates.
• Russia enjoyed double-digit domestic traffic growth for the third consecutive month as traffic rose 11.7% compared to the year-ago period.
• Japan’s domestic demand recovered after the significant typhoon-related disruptions in September caused traffic to decline 4.7% compared to a year ago. October traffic rose 1.7%.
The Big Picture
“Demand for air travel is strong as we head into the holiday travel season. Trade wars and uncertainty around the political and economic impact of Brexit remain concerns but the recent easing of fuel prices is a welcome development. In a few days, IATA will hold our annual Global Media Day in Geneva, bringing together more than 100 journalists and bloggers from around the world. We will present our updated economic forecast, among other topics. I always look forward to this opportunity to discuss and debate the key issues and initiatives facing commercial aviation with our colleagues in the media,” said de Juniac.