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International air passenger traffic grows by 6.1 per cent in 2014

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IATA’s global passenger traffic results for 2014 shows demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rise of 5.9 per cent compared to 2013. The 2014 performance was above the 10-year average growth rate of 5.6 per cent and the 5.2 per cent annual growth experienced in 2013 compared to 2012. Capacity rose 5.6 per cent last year, with the result that load factor climbed 0.2 per centage points to 79.7 per cent.

All regions saw demand grow in 2014, more than half of the growth in passenger travel occurred on airlines in emerging markets including Asia Pacific and the Middle East. In recent months domestic market growth played a large role in driving growth. This is owed mainly to a pick-up in Chinese domestic travel which expanded by some 11 per cent in 2014 over the previous year.

Tony Tyler, director general and CEO, IATA said, “Demand for the passenger business did well in 2014. With a 5.9 per cent expansion of demand, the industry out-performed the 10-year average growth rate. Carriers in the Middle East posted double-digit growth while results in Africa were barely above previous-year levels. Overall a record 3.3 billion passengers boarded aircraft last year- some 170 million more than in 2013. While it is clear that people will continue to travel in growing numbers, there have been signs in recent months that softening business confidence is translating into a leveling off of international travel demand.”

International passenger traffic rose 6.1 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013. Capacity rose 6.4 per cent and load factor slipped 0.1 per centage points to 79.2 per cent.

Asia Pacific carriers recorded an increase of 5.8 per cent compared to 2013, which was the largest increase among the three biggest regions. However, traffic has been broadly flat over the past four months or so amid signs of a slowdown in regional production activity, although trade volumes have remained strong. Capacity rose seven per cent, pushing down load factor 1.1 per centage points to 76.9 per cent.

European carriers’ international traffic climbed 5.7 per cent in 2014. Capacity rose 5.2 per cent and load factor rose 0.6 per centage points 81.6 per cent. Robust travel on low fare airlines as well as airlines registered in Turkey offset economic weakness and risks in the region.

North American airlines saw demand rise 3.1 per cent in 2014 over 2013. Among developed economies, the US is the standout performer. Capacity rose 4.6 per cent, dropping load factor 1.1 per centage points to 81.7 per cent. This was the highest among all regions.

Middle East carriers had the strongest annual traffic growth at 13 per cent. The region’s economies continue to show robust growth in non-oil sectors, and are therefore well-placed to withstand the plunge in oil revenues. Capacity rose 11.9 per cent and load factor climbed 0.8 per centage points to 78.1 per cent.

Latin American airlines’ traffic rose 5.8 per cent. Capacity rose 4.7 per cent and load factor climbed 0.8 per centage points to 80 per cent. While Brazilian economic growth has stagnated, regional trade volumes have improved in recent months.

African airlines experienced the slowest annual demand growth, up 0.9 per cent compared to 2013. With capacity up three per cent, load factor fell 1.5 per centage points to 67.5 per cent, the lowest among the regions. The weakness in international air travel for regional carriers is not believed to be attributable to the Ebola outbreak, the impact of which has been restricted largely to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, markets that comprise a very small proportion of traffic. Instead it appears to reflect negative economic developments in parts of the continent including Nigeria, which is highly reliant on oil revenues. South Africa also experienced weakness earlier in the year.

Domestic Passenger Markets

Domestic air travel rose 5.4 per cent in 2014, with all markets showing growth, led by China and the Russian Federation. Capacity rose 4.3 per cent and load factor was 80.6 per cent, up 0.7 per centage points over 2013. China’s domestic air travel rose 11 per cent in 2014, helping to drive global air travel performance upward. The strong result occurred despite signs of a slowdown in the Chinese economy and industrial activity although consumer spending remains robust.

Russian domestic traffic climbed 9.8 per cent last year but with the economy on the brink of recession, growth rates are expected to sharply decline in early 2015.

“In the aftermath of the Greek elections and the intensifying debate on how to deliver a dynamic economic programme for Europe, we must not forget the power of air connectivity to create growth. Governments can kick-start economic development by reducing the passenger taxes that depress demand for air transport, costing jobs and prosperity. There are some positive signs. The Scottish government is promising to cut its air passenger duty by 50 per cent. And Austria’s air transport levy is being evaluated as part of comprehensive tax reforms. Scrapping the Austrian levy alone could create some 3,300 jobs. That should help convince politicians in these countries to move from considering reductions to delivering results. High taxes, onerous regulation and infrastructure limitations make Europe a tough place to run an airline. A continent-wide commitment to address these issues so that aviation can play its critical role as an economic catalyst would be a powerful signal that Europe’s politicians really do mean business,” said Tyler.

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