The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports air traffic was up 4.6 percent in January as compared to the same period one year ago.
This represents a slower start to the year compared to 2014 full-year growth of 5.9 percent. However, results likely were affected by the timing of the Lunar New Year in Asia, which occurred one month later this year compared to 2014. January capacity rose 5.2 percent and load factor slipped 0.5 percentage points to 77.7 percent. While domestic markets drove growth in the latter part of 2014, international traffic was stronger in January.
All regions recorded year-over increases in demand except for Africa.
European carriers’ international traffic climbed 5.0 percent in January compared to the year-ago period, which was the largest increase among the three biggest regions. Capacity rose 4.6 percent and load factor rose 0.3 percentage points to 77.7 percent. Air travel growth in Europe reflects robust travel on low cost carriers as well as on airlines registered in Turkey which is helping to overcome some of the impact on travel of the ongoing economic weakness in the region.
Asia-Pacific carriers recorded an increase of 4.7 percent compared to January 2014, which is below the 2014 annual trend of 5.8 percent expansion. In addition, the seasonally-adjusted level of traffic has been broadly flat over the past five months. The timing of the Lunar New Year in mid-February (one month later than it fell in 2014) also impacted the results. Capacity rose 5.8 percent, pushing down load factor 0.8 percentage points to 77.6 percent.
North American airlines saw demand rise 2.7 percent in January over a year ago. While this was the weakest traffic growth for all regions save Africa, the US economy is a stand-out performer among developed economies. Capacity rose 3.8 percent, pushing down load factor 0.9 percentage points to 79.5 percent.
Middle East carriers had the strongest year-over-year traffic growth in January at 11.4 percent. Markit’s measures of business activity in non-oil sectors in the region’s economies continue to show improvement, suggesting Middle Eastern economies are comparatively well-placed to withstand the plunge in oil revenues. Capacity rose 13.3 percent and load factor dipped 1.3 percentage points to 79.7 percent.
Latin American airlines’ traffic rose 5.6 percent. Capacity rose 5.1 percent and load factor climbed 0.4 percentage points to 81.2 percent, highest among the regions. While growth in the Brazilian economy has stagnated, regional trade volumes have continued to improve in recent months.
African airlines saw January traffic slip 0.7 percent compared to January 2014. The weakness in international air travel for regional carriers is not believed to be attributable to the Ebola outbreak, the IATA said. Rather, it appears to reflect negative economic developments in parts of the continent including Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, which is suffering from the collapse in oil prices. With capacity up 0.7 percent, load factor fell 1.0 percentage point to 68.1 percent, the lowest among the regions.