March passenger demand growth falls to a nine-year low

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May 09, 2019
capacity crunch and airports and slots
Photo: O'Hare International Airport.

A late Easter saw March deliver the slowest growth in global air passenger demand for any month in the past nine years.

The International Air Transport Association said that demand rose 3.1 percent compared to the same month a year ago but annualized growth had been relatively steady since October at 4.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The load factor dipped by 0.9 percentage points to 81.7 percent as the April Easter holiday arrived a month later than 2018.

“While traffic growth slowed considerably in March, we do not see the month as a bellwether for the rest of 2019,’’ IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said.

“Nevertheless, the economic backdrop has become somewhat less favorable, with the IMF having recently revised its GDP outlook downward for a fourth time in the past year.”

International demand rose just 2.5 percent globally, down from the 4.5 percent year-on-year growth in February and almost 5 percentage points below the five-year average pace.

READ air freight weakness persists as fuel costs bite.

The worldwide load factor fell 1.2 percentage points to 80.8 percent as capacity climbed 4 percent and outstripped the growth in demand.

Latin American carriers had the fastest growth at 5.5 percent, followed by Europe (4.7 percent) North America (3 percent), Africa (2.1 percent) and the Asia Pacific (2 percent).

The Middle East was the only region to see a drop in international demand, its second month of decline, which IATA attributed to broader structural changes in the area. Passenger demand fell 3 percent and the load factor declined 4 percentage points to 73.8 percent.

Global domestic demand grew by 4.1 percent, down from 6.2 percent in February, with China and India again the big drivers.

The load factor fell 0.3 percentage points because of a  4.5 percent rise in capacity.

Australia was the only country in the basket reported by IATA to record reduced demand. The fall of 3.2 percent was accompanied by a 2.1 percent reduction in capacity, limiting the impact on load factors to a drop of 0.9 points.

“Despite March’s slowdown, the outlook for air travel remains solid,’’ de Juniac said. “Global connectivity has never been better.

“Consumers can choose from more than 21,000 city pair combinations on more than 125,000 daily flights. And airfares continue to decline in real terms.”