IATA Reports Strong Demand Growth In FEB, Despite “Shocks”
Alexandre de Juniac
IATA has announced that global passenger traffic results for February revealed a second month of strong demand growth to begin 2017 -- and the highest overall load factor ever recorded for the month. The growth came despite what the airline organization called some “shocks” that opened the year.
Total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose 4.8%, compared to the same month last year. Although this was below January’s figure, year-to-year comparisons are distorted because February 2016 was a leap month. Adjusting for the one fewer day this year, the underlying growth rate was estimated at 8.6%, just under January’s increase of 8.9%.
Monthly capacity increased by 2.7%, and load factor rose 1.6 percentage points to 79.5%, the highest ever recorded for February.
“The strong demand momentum from January has continued, supported by lower fares and a healthier economic backdrop. Although we remain concerned over the impact of any travel restrictions or closing of borders, we have not seen the attempted U.S. ban on travel from six countries translate into an identifiable traffic trend. Overall travel demand continues to grow at a robust rate,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
IATA estimates that allowing for inflation, the price of air travel has fallen by more than 10% in real terms over the past year, accounting for more than half the growth in RPKs in early 2017.
North American airlines’traffic climbed 0.3%, the slowest among the regions. However, adjusting for the leap year, growth was estimated at 3.4%. IATA says North American traffic to/ from Asia continues to move upward but transatlantic demand has trended sideways since mid-2016. Capacity inched up 0.1% and load factor edged up 0.1 percentage point to 75.9%.
The Middle East region had the strongest growth, followed by Europe, where IATA says traffic has resumed its growth after the terrorist disruptions in 2016, supported in part by momentum in the regional economy.
The “shocks” IATA described include the attempted ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of six countries and the restrictions on the carry-on of large electronic items from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa on direct flights to the US and the UK. IATA also says the potential implications of the Brexit talks on the air transport industry are significant and the political rhetoric of protectionism and closing of borders is adding to an atmosphere of “ambiguity.”
"It’s intolerable that governments continue to add to the uncertainties facing the air transport industry by failing to engage airline operational know-how on issues that can damage public confidence,” de Juniac said.
“The introduction of restrictions on the carry-on of large electronic devices was a missed opportunity and the result was a measure that cannot stand-up to the scrutiny of public confidence in the long term. Although Australia’s measures were also implemented without consulting the industry, they at least demonstrate the potential to mitigate the threat with less disruptive means. We all want to keep flying secure. And we can do that most effectively by working together."
The IATA leader called for nations to support the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as it develops a Global Aviation Security Plan. Additionally, next month, ICAO member states will consider amendments to Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention that would require information sharing. "The security experience of recent years should compel states to support this," said de Juniac.