IATA Reports Demand for Air Travel Stays Firm

airlineGlobal passenger traffic results for April showed a 3.2 percent increase in demand over the previous April, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports. Emerging markets are continuing to lead air travel growth, with all regions reporting year-over-year gains.

The timing of the Easter holiday (which occurred in March 2013 and in April 2012) is largely responsible for the apparent decline from March performance (when year-on-year demand showed a 6.2 percent increase), IATA said. The seasonally adjusted rate for April showed demand up almost 5 percent, which is in line with the long term historical trend.

“Passenger demand continued to grow in April, extending the positive trend that has been developing since late 2012. The increase, however, is concentrated in emerging markets. Airlines in Europe and North America reported a modest expansion compared to the strong growth seen in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. While economic developments in Europe and the US certainly bear watching, most indicators continue to signal further expansion in air travel,” said Tony Tyler, IATA Director General and CEO.

Capacity rose 4.4 percent on the previous April which was slightly ahead of demand. This pushed the industry load factor downwards by 0.9 percentage points to 78.1%. If we adjust for the impacts of seasonality, the load factor remained near record highs of 80%.

April international passenger demand was up 3.0 percent compared to the year-ago period. Capacity rose 4.3 percent versus April 2012 and load factor dipped 1.0 percentage point to 77.8 percent. 

North American airlines’ international traffic shrank 0.5 percent in April versus the same month last year, the only region to experience a contraction in traffic growth. Capacity rose 1.3 percent and load factor fell 1.4 percentage points to 79.5 percent, still the highest for any region. 

Although the underlying international growth trend for North American carriers had been showing improvement since late last year, more recently it has returned to levels in line with those of the fourth quarter of 2012, IATA said. The impact of government spending cuts related to the federal budget sequestration are yet to be fully seen, but the initial impact on business confidence has been negative with a significant slip in the US Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) in April.

Domestic markets climbed 3.5 percent in April compared to a year-ago, driven primarily by strong demand in China, as other markets experienced declines with the exception of Australia, which rose 3.8 percent. Total domestic capacity was up 4.7 percent compared to April 2012 and load factor fell 0.9 percentage points to 78.6 percent. 

US traffic rose 1.1 percent in April compared to the year-ago period, but was down on the March growth of 3.1 percent. Results could have been negatively impacted by the timing of the Easter holiday, IATA said. " However, based on month-to-month trend, which showed a 0.5 percent contraction, it does appear that earlier acceleration is starting to weaken, reflecting falls in business confidence. Capacity rose 2.4 percent, pushing load factor down one percentage point to 82.6 percent but still the highest for any region."

“In just a few days, the global air transport industry will gather in Cape Town, South Africa, for IATA’s 69th Annual General Meeting, 2-4 June. High on the agenda will be addressing aviation’s environmental commitment to achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020, as well as safety, distribution and financial sustainability. One of our key messages to governments will be that aviation should be treated like any other business. We don’t want a handout, but we also don’t want to be singled out for special fees and taxes, and commercial regulations that chill market creativity and initiative,” Tyler said.

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