The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for April showing robust demand growth compared to April 2014. Total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose 5.9 percent. April capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 6.1 percent, and load factor slipped 0.1 percentage points to 79.4 percent.
Domestic demand grew by 7.2 percent, outpacing international demand, which grew by 5.2 percent compared to April 2014.
“Demand for connectivity remains strong. That’s positive news. But the performance of the industry is multi-tiered. Middle East and Asia-Pacific based carriers led with growth well above the 5.9 percent average, while carriers in Europe and the Americas were below it. And African airlines reported a contraction compared to the previous year,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s DG and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
April international passenger demand rose 5.2 percent compared to April 2014. Airlines in all regions except Africa recorded growth led by the Asia-Pacific and Middle East. Capacity climbed 5.9 percent and load factor dipped 0.5 percentage points to 78.6 percent.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ April traffic jumped 9.0 percent compared to the year-ago period. Capacity rose 6.0 percent and load factor surged 2.2 percentage points to 78.3 percent. To date the sharp reversal in regional trade activity after strong gains in late 2014 has not had an adverse impact on business-related international air travel.
European carriers experienced a 3.7 percent demand increase in April versus April 2014. Capacity rose 4.7 percent and load factor declined 0.8 percentage points to 80.7 percent, still the highest among the regions for the month. Although signs are that a positive response to the European Central Bank stimulus has faltered owing to firming in the Euro and oil prices, economic stimulus is helping ease downward pressure on demand.
North American airlines had just a 0.7 percent rise in traffic compared to April a year ago. U.S. economic growth turned negative in the first quarter of 2015 while the stronger dollar is likely hampering inbound leisure travel. Capacity rose 4.1 percent and load factor fell 2.6 percentage points to 78.1 percent.
Middle East carriers’ demand climbed 8.2 percent in April but this was exceeded by a 13.3 percent jump in capacity with the result that load factor dropped 3.6 percentage points to 77.2 percent. Economies in the region are reasonably well positioned to withstand the plunge in oil revenues and regionally-based carriers continue to gain market-share.
Latin American airlines saw a 6.3 percent rise in traffic compared to April 2014. Capacity rose 7.3 percent, however, causing load factor to slip 0.7 percentage points to 77.7 percent. Regional trade volumes have been improving but Brazil’s economy remains a trouble spot.
African airlines’ traffic fell 3.2 percent in April year-to-year, while capacity dropped 5.0 percent, resulting in a 1.3 percentage point rise in load factor to 67.5 percent. Negative economic developments in parts of the continent, including Nigeria, which relies heavily on oil revenues, are likely contributing to the depressed results.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Domestic travel demand rose 7.2 percent in April compared to April 2014, with the strongest growth occurring in India and China. Total domestic capacity also was up 6.4 percent, and load factor was 80.8 percent, up 0.6 percentage points.
India’s domestic demand jumped 20.7 percent in April compared to a year ago likely owing to continued market stimulation by local carriers as well noteworthy improvements in economic growth.
China’s domestic traffic climbed 15.5 percent year-over-year but the strong momentum may not be maintained in the face of indications of slowing economic growth.
Russian air travel remains weak, with just a 1.7 percent rise over the year-ago period, consistent with the economy being in recession.
“As we head into the traditionally strong summer travel season in the Northern Hemisphere, the outlook for aviation is a mixed picture. Lower oil prices are helping to keep the cost of air travel down. The stronger U.S. dollar, however, may dampen demand in some markets. And it remains to be seen how long robust travel demand can stand up in the face of a trio of bad economic news: unexpectedly poor first quarter performance in the US, continuing weakness in the Eurozone and slowing regional trade in Asia Pacific,” said Tyler.