The timing of the Lunar New Year helped boost air travel demand, as measured in total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) 6.2 percent in February over the same period last year, according to new data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
February's 6.2 percent growth was also an improvement on the January year-over-year increase of 4.5 percent. February capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 5.6 percent, and load factor rose 0.5 percentage points to 78.5 percent.
“Lunar New Year celebrations, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, certainly contributed to the robust February performance, but it is also clear that solid demand for connectivity is offsetting economic weakness in some regions including the Eurozone,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
February international passenger demand rose 6.8 percent compared to the same month last year, with airlines in all regions except Africa recording growth. Capacity climbed 5.7 percent and load factor rose 0.7 percentage points to 77.4 percent.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ February traffic surged 10.4 percent compared to the year-ago period. Although the strong results reflect leisure traffic around the Lunar New Year, the underlying trend in volumes confirms robust expansion in air travel. Capacity rose 8.2 percent and load factor climbed 1.6 percentage points to 78.2 percent.
European carriers saw demand increase by 4.8 percent in February versus February 2014. Despite feeble economic expansion in the Eurozone, some carriers including those in Turkey, continued to report strong growth. Capacity climbed 3.4 percent and load factor rose 1.1 percentage points to 78.3 percent.
North American airlines experienced a 3.5 percent rise in traffic compared to February a year ago, which was above the 3.1 percent expansion in 2014 overall. The U.S. economy remains a stand-out performer among developed economies. Capacity rose 2.3 percent and load factor was 76.8 percent, up 0.9 percentage points over a year ago.
Middle East carriers’ demand climbed 8.7 percent in February. Economies in the region are comparatively well placed to withstand the plunge in oil revenues and regionally-based carriers continue to gain market-share. Capacity climbed 11.0 percent, causing load factor to fall 1.6 percentage points to 77.2 percent.
Latin American airlines experienced a 7.4 percent rise in traffic compared to February 2014. Capacity rose 6.5 percent and load factor rose 0.7 percentage points to 79.7 percent, highest among the regions. Growth in the Brazilian economy has stagnated but regional trade volumes have continued to improve.
African airlines’ traffic fell 2.0 percent in February year-to-year, while ASKs slipped 1.7 percent, resulting in a 0.2 percentage point dip in load factor to 63.5 percent, which was the lowest for any region. The results most likely reflect adverse economic developments in parts of the continent, including Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, which relies heavily on oil revenues.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Domestic travel demand rose 5.3 percent in February compared to February 2014, with the strongest growth occurring in India and Brazil, followed by China, which benefitted from Lunar New Year-related travel. Total domestic capacity also was up 5.3 percent, and load factor was unchanged at 80.4 percent.
India’s domestic demand soared 14.8 percent in February compared to a year ago. Market demand began to improve in the latter part of 2014, partly owing to market stimulation, and that has continued in 2015.
Brazilian domestic traffic climbed 9.2 percent year-over-year. This is attributable in part to the fact that Carnival celebrations fell entirely in February in 2015, whereas in 2014 the holiday overlapped in March.