The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for March 2017 showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) rose 6.8%, compared to the same month a year ago.
Capacity grew 6.1% and load factor climbed by half a percentage point to 80.4%, which was a record for the month.
March demand growth represented a moderate slowdown relative to performance in February after adjusting for the distortion in the year-to-year comparisons owing to the extra day in February 2016.
The imposition of the ban on large electronics in the cabin on certain routes to the US and UK occurred too late in March to have an effect on traffic figures.
“Strong traffic demand continued throughout the first quarter, supported by a combination of lower fares and a broad-based upturn in global economic conditions. The price of air travel has fallen by around 10% in real terms over the past year and that has contributed to record load factors. We will have to wait another month to see the impact of the laptop ban on demand,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
March international passenger demand rose 6.4% compared to March 2016, which was a slight deceleration compared to February, after adjusting for the leap year distortion in February.
Airlines in all regions recorded growth. Total capacity climbed 6.1%, and load factor improved 0.2% percentage points to 78.8%.
African airlines continued to enjoy good demand, with traffic up 6.0% compared to March 2016. Capacity rose 2.4%, and load factor strengthened 2.3 percentage points to 68.2%. Notwithstanding fragility in the region’s biggest economies (Nigeria and South Africa), traffic growth has strengthened in recent months with RPKs growing at an annualized pace of nearly 10% since mid-2016. This pick-up reflects a combination of faster growth on the key market to and from Europe, and also between Africa and the Middle East.
“The first quarter results are strong. But the last weeks have been challenging to the passenger business. The laptop ban—implemented with next to no notice, no dialogue and no coordination, is testing public confidence in how governments and industry work together to keep flying secure. So, even as rumors persist that the ban will be expanded to other airports and regions, we are calling on governments to work with the industry to find alternatives—to keep flying secure without such great inconvenience to our passengers,” said de Juniac.
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