More passengers took to the skies worldwide in March 2013, versus the same month a year ago, according to the latest global air traffic statistics from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
IATA said the results could be characterized as “strong demand growth led by emerging markets with all regions showing gains.” Total traffic was up 5.9 percent, compared with traffic in March 2012.
Part of the rise may be attributable to traffic related to the Easter holiday, which occurred in March this year versus April 2012.
But IATA also said the seasonally adjusted trend continues to show strong growth, with demand expanding at an 8% annualized rate in the six months since October 2012.
Capacity rose 3.5% compared to the year-ago period, pushing up load factor 1.8 percentage points to 80.3%.
“Strong demand for air travel is consistent with improving business conditions,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO. “Performance, however, has been uneven. Mature markets are seeing relatively little growth while emerging markets continue to show a robust expansion.”
He also said that although oil prices have softened in recent weeks, they remain high against historical averages. In view of this, “airlines are responding with a very cautious approach to capacity management,” said Tyler.
Domestically, U.S. air traffic climbed 3.1% while capacity rose 2.6%, pushing load factor up 0.4 percentage point to 84.7%, the highest among all domestic markets.
IATA said the growth trend for U.S domestic markets previously had shown strong acceleration over the past several months in line with an improving economic outlook and consumer confidence, but in March there was little further progress in that trend with almost no change (0.1%) compared to February.
The Bottom Line
Giving a “Bottom Line” assessment, IATA said “business confidence levels continue to foreshadow an economic upturn.” But the organization also said it’s important that governments avoid placing roadblocks to recovery.
“The flight delays and cancellations inflicted on air travelers to, from and within the US owing to sequestration-related budget cuts had the potential to inflict real damage to the economy if they had been permitted to continue,” said Tyler.
He said aviation is far too important to be treated as a bargaining chip in politics in the first instance, noting “let’s hope the lesson is well learned.”
IATA said its next challenge is to knock back the $5.5 billion in added taxes and charges in the Administration’s budget proposal, which represent a 29% increase over the $19 billion in fees and taxes that airlines and air travelers paid last year.
“Under such conditions, the natural ability of aviation connectivity to catalyze economic growth and jobs is compromised,” said Tyler.
Travel agents may read more highlights from the IATA report at: www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2013-05-01-01.aspx