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Global airlines see slower but steady growth in passenger demand in 2019 – IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced full-year global passenger traffic results for 2019 showing that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose by 4.2percent compared to the full year of 2018.

The 2019 result is a slowdown compared to 2018’s annual growth of 7.3 percent and marked the first year since the global financial crisis in 2009 with passenger demand below the long-term trend of around 5.5 percent annual growth. Full-year 2019 capacity climbed 3.4 percent, and the load factor rose 0.7 percentage point to a record high of 82.6 percent. The previous high was 81.9 percent set in 2018.

December 2019 RPKs increased 4.5 percent against the same month in 2018. That was an improvement over the 3.3 percent annual growth recorded in November, primarily due to solid demand in North America.

“Airlines did well to maintain steady growth last year in the face of a number of challenges. A softer economic backdrop, weak global trade activity, and political and geopolitical tensions took their toll on demand. Astute capacity management, and the effects of the 737 MAX grounding, contributed to another record load factor, helping the industry to manage through weaker demand and improving environmental performance,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO said.

International passenger markets

2019 international passenger traffic climbed 4.1 percent compared to 2018, down from 7.1 percent annual growth the year before. Capacity rose 3.0 percent and load factor edged up 0.8 percentage point to 82.0 percent.

Asia-Pacific airlines’ full-year traffic increased 4.5 percent in 2019, which was a large decline compared to 8.5 percent growth in 2018. This reflected the impact of the US-China trade war as well as weakening business confidence and economic activity. Capacity rose 4.1 percent, and load factor ticked up 0.3 percentage point to 80.9 percent.

European carriers saw a 4.4 percent traffic rise in 2019, which was down from 7.5 percent annual growth in 2018. Capacity rose 3.7 percent and load factor increased 0.6 percentage point to 85.6 percent, which was the highest for any region.

The lowered results are attributable to generally slowing economic activity; declining business confidence, compounded by industrial disputes (strikes); Brexit uncertainty and the collapse of a number of airlines.

African airlines led all regions with a 5.0 percent demand increase, down from 6.3 percent growth recorded for 2018. Capacity rose 4.5 percent, and load factor edged up 0.3 percentage point to 71.3 percent. Airlines in the region benefitted from a generally supportive economic backdrop in 2019 as well as increases in air transport connectivity.


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