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Global passenger demand up 2.7% in January 2013


International airlines passenger traffic grew by 2.7 percent in January 2012 against 2.2 percent in the same month last year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.

IATA represents some 240 airlines comprising 84 percent of global air traffic. Tony Tyler, IATA director general said in the January statistics released that “while overall demand was up, load factors stood at 77.1 percent.”

Strong demand for air travel driven by the Chinese New Year also distorted the January figures according to IATA. The Chinese New Year fell in January 2012 and in February this year.

The comparisons to such a strong month (January 2012) made January 2013 demand look weaker than the underlying trend would indicate.

After adjusting for such seasonal factors, IATA estimates that the actual growth would have been 3.5 percent.

This growth rate is still lower than the 5.3 percent 2012 average, however, air travel growth slowed sharply through the year and the results of the past few months represent an acceleration of demand.

“Passenger travel is growing in line with business confidence levels. Recent months have seen some positive economic signs emerge in both the US and China, and the Euro zone crisis seems to have stabilised. Of course risks remain; the impact of the US budget cuts has yet to play out and fuel prices are still high. But even with those headwinds—real and potential—we still see underlying support for continued and potentially even, strengthened growth,” Tyler said.

According to the statistics, international markets outperformed the global industry average in January with a 3.7 percent increase in demand against a 2.7 percent capacity expansion; leading to load factors of 77.6 percent.

The figures show that Asia-Pacific airlines have captured over half of the growth in demand between October 2012 and January 2013.

After adjusting for seasonal factors, January saw demand growth in the region of 3.0 percent for Asia-Pacific airlines compared to a year ago while load factors for the region’s airlines stood at 77.8 percent. Middle East airlines posted the strongest growth rates for January with a 14.3 percent increase in demand which was nearly evenly matched by a 14.4 percent growth in capacity, while load factors for the region were above the global average at 78.6 percent.

IATA said the region’s carriers have successfully tapped into demand from emerging markets with the strength of their network structures and efficient hubs. On the other hand, African airlines posted 9.4 percent growth ahead of a 5.8 percent capacity expansion. Despite this, the region’s airlines recorded the weakest load factors at 67.9 percent.

“Economic growth rates in many African nations are strong, particularly those in resource-rich West Africa. This is providing the demand for a sustained market expansion,” Tyler said.

European airlines were among the weaker performers, with 2.1 percent demand growth on 0.4 percent capacity expansion