MIAMI — The world’s airlines saw passenger traffic growth rise 5.3 percent in September year over year, IATA reported. This continues what IATA called a positive growth trend for passenger demand, even though the performance was slightly below the August’s year-over-year rise of 6.3 percent. September capacity rose 5.1 percent, while load factor was up 0.2 percentage points to 80.3 percent.
The strengthening of the U.S. and Asian economies was offset by weakness in Europe and Latin America, said IATA Director General Tony Tyler in a statement. Europe’s airlines reported 3.9 percent growth for international demand, a significant drop from the 7 percent reported in August. Along with the impact of the 14-day Air France crew strike, this also reflects a lapse in the Eurozone economic recovery, said IATA.
Indicators show a weakening in key economies including Germany, owing to the Russia-Ukraine crisis and related sanctions, as well as a reversal in prior improvements in consumer confidence. With capacity up just 2.6 percent, load factor was 84.7 percent, the highest for any region and a one percentage point rise compared to last year.
Asia Pacific airlines reported September demand growth of 4.8 percent compared to a year ago. Although it was a weaker rise than August, the recent trend has been positive and reflects better demand conditions in the region, including stronger trade activity that encourages business travel. Capacity climbed 7.2 percent and load factor dropped 1.7 percentage points to 76.2 percent, said IATA.
North American airlines saw international demand rise by just 2.1 percent. However, underlying trends in business activity are positive and growth in trade volumes has accelerated, boding well for business-related international travel, said IATA. Capacity in the region rose 3.8 percent and load factor slipped 1.4 percentage points to 82.4 percent.
Middle East carriers once again recorded the strongest increase in international air travel, with a rise of 15.8 percent in September compared to a year ago. Airlines here continue to benefit from the strength of regional economies as well as expansion in export orders that support international business activity and business-related premium travel. Capacity rose 14.9 percent and load factor climbed 0.6 percentage points to 78 percent.
Latin American airlines posted growth of 4.6 percnet in September year over year, a notable slowdown as compared with August’s growth, at 8.3 percent. Growth in the Brazilian economy remains fundamentally weak and recent indicators of growth and business activity are showing signs of further weakness, but regional trade volumes have been improving. With capacity up 4.9 percent compared to a year ago, load factor slipped 0.2 percentage points to 79.9 percent.
African carriers posted a slim 1.8 percent rise in international traffic in September compared to a year ago, and it was down significantly from August year-over-year growth of 7 percent. IATA warned that the continent’s decelerated growth could not be immediately interpreted as a trend change, as significant volatility in volumes exists for this region.
The effect of any Ebola-related traffic downturn is mostly restricted to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but these markets are only a very small part of overall African traffic. Adverse economic developments in some parts of the continent are responsible for the weakness in international air travel for regional carriers. However, South Africa has managed to avoid entering a recession, which could help moderate downward pressure on air travel. Capacity rose 2.6 percent and load factor fell 0.6 percentage points to 70.5 percent, the lowest among all regions.