MIAMI – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic data for January 2020, with a 2.4% climb in demand (measured in total revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) compared to January 2019.

This is the lowest monthly RPK increase since April 2010, down from a 4.6% YOY growth for the prior month. January capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 1.7%, with the load factor climbing 0.6 percentage point to 80.3%.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said that this was just “the tip of the iceberg in terms of the traffic impacts” due to the COVID-19 outbreak – China travel restrictions began on January 23. “Nevertheless, it was still enough to cause our slowest traffic growth in nearly a decade.”

January passenger demand by region

January 2020 (% year-on-year)World share1RPKASKPLF (%-pt)2PLF (level)3
Total Market 100.0%2.4%1.7%0.6%80.3%
Asia Pacific34.7%0.4%2.2%-1.5%79.9%
Latin America5.1%0.4%0.0%0.3%82.6%
Middle East9.0%5.9%0.6%3.9%78.5%
North America22.2%5.7%3.6%1.6%81.2%

1.% of industry RPKs in 2019. 2. Year-on-year change in load factor. 3 Load Factor Level.

According to IATA’s data, international passenger demand for January 2020 rose 2.5% compared to January 2019, down from 3.7% growth the previous month. With the exception of Latin America, all regions recorded increases.


African and the Middle Eastern airlines saw minimal impact from the COVID-19 outbreak for the month. Capacity climbed 0.9%, and load factor rose 1.2 percentage points to 81.1%.

African airlines’ traffic climbed 5.3% in January, somewhat up from a 5.1% growth in December.

Capacity for the region rose 5.7%, Alas, load factor slipped 0.3 percentage point to 70.5%.


Asia-Pacific airlines’ January traffic went up 2.5% compared to January of last year, the slowest result since early 2013 and a decline from the 3.9% increase in December.

IATA states that “the faint GDP growth in several of the above region’s key economies was compounded by COVID-19 impacts on the international Chinese market.”

Capacity for the region rose 3.0% and load factor slipped to 0.4 percentage points to 81.6%.


European carriers saw January demand climb just 1.6% year-to-year, down from 2.7% in December. Results were affected by collapsing GDP growth in leading economies during 2019 Q4 in addition to COVID-19 related flight cancelations in late January.

For European airlines, capacity fell 1.0%, and load factor lifted 2.1 percentage points to 82.7%.

Latin America

Latin American airlines experienced a 3.7% demand reduction in January compared to the same month last year – a further decline compared to a 1.3% decline in December.

For the last quarter, traffic for Latin American carriers has been particularly weak due to social unrest and economic difficulties in a number of countries in the region.

Capacity for the region fell 4.0% and load factor edged up 0.2 percentage points to 82.7%.

Middle East

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 5.4% traffic increase in January, the fourth consecutive month of solid demand growth, showing strong performance from larger Europe-Middle East and Middle East-Asia routes that were not impacted greatly by route cancellations due to COVID-19.

Capacity for the region increased just 0.5%, with load factor jumping 3.6 percentage points to 78.3%.  

North America

North American carriers’ international demand rose 2.9% compared to January a year ago, representing a slowdown from the 5.2% growth recorded in December with no significant flight cancellations to Asia.

Capacity for the region climbed 1.6%, and load factor grew by 1.0 percentage point to 81.7%.