IATA: Moderating demand growth in March


GENEVA, Switzerland – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for March showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) rose 5.3%, compared to the same month last year. Capacity grew slightly faster at 5.9% which pushed the average load factor down by half a percentage point to 79.6%.

March performance shows a moderate slowdown on the year-on-year growth rates recorded in January (7.2%) and February (8.6%) even after adjusting for the leap-year impact in February. Demand for international traffic grew significantly more quickly (6.2%) than that for domestic travel (3.7%).

“While in line with long-term trends, demand growth in March represented a slow-down compared to January and February. It is premature to say whether this marks the end of the recent very strong results. We do expect further stimulus in the form of network expansion and declines in travel costs. However, the wider economic backdrop remains subdued,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

March 2016
(% year-on-year) World share¹ RPK ASK PLF
(%-pt)² PLF

Total Market 100.0% 5.3% 5.9% -0.5% 79.6%
Africa 2.2% 9.7% 8.2% 1.0% 68.2%
Asia Pacific 31.5% 5.1% 6.7% -1.2% 78.3%
Europe 26.7% 5.3% 4.6% 0.5% 80.2%
Latin America 5.4% 3.8% 2.8% 0.7% 78.3%
Middle East 9.4% 11.5% 13.4% -1.3% 76.7%
North America 24.7% 3.0% 3.5% -0.4% 83.6%

¹% of industry RPKs in 2015 ²Year-on-year change in load factor ³Load factor level

International Passenger Markets

Iinternational passenger demand rose 6.2% compared to March 2015, which was a decline compared to the 9.1% increase in February. Airlines in all regions recorded growth. Total capacity climbed 6.9%, causing load factor to slip 0.5% percentage points to 78.5%.

• Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic rose 6% in March compared to the year-ago period; however, capacity increased 7.8%, which caused load factor to slide 1.3 percentage points to 77.4%. Key routes within Asia, across the Pacific and to the Middle East grew strongly in the opening months, although Asia to Europe routes lagged behind.

• European carriers saw March demand climb 5.5% over March 2015. Capacity rose 5.4% and load factor edged up 0.1 percentage points to 80.8%, highest among regions. The largest routes, including between the UK and Germany, and to and from Spain, have seen strong growth this year. It is too soon to know how the terrorist attacks in Brussels will affect demand.

• Middle East carriers experienced a 12% rise in demand in March, which was the largest increase among regions. Capacity increased 13.6%, however, and load factor dropped 1.1 percentage points to 76.5%.

• North American airlines’ traffic climbed 0.7% in March compared to the year-ago period, the slowest pace since April 2013. Carriers here have been concentrating their efforts on the larger and stronger domestic markets. Capacity rose just 0.6% and load factor was flat at 80.5%.

• Latin American airlines had a 7.9% increase in traffic in March, down from a 10.4% increase in February, suggesting the upward trend in business-related international demand has softened. Capacity climbed 6.3%, causing load factor to surge 1.2 percentage points to 78.5%.

• African airlines continued to enjoy strong demand, with traffic up 11.2% compared to March 2015. The turnaround after several difficult years coincides with expansion of long-haul networks by the region’s carriers. Capacity rose 9.7%, and load factor strengthened to 66.6%, up 0.9 percentage points.

Domestic Passenger Markets

Domestic demand rose 3.7% in March compared to March 2015, a dramatic slowdown from the leap year-aided 7.8% growth recorded in February. This was driven primarily by performance in the two largest markets, the US–which accounts for two of every five domestic passengers–and China. Domestic capacity climbed 4.3%, and load factor retreated 0.4 percentage points to 81.6%.

March 2016
(% year-on-year) World share¹
(%-pt)² PLF

Domestic 36.4% 3.7% 4.3% -0.4% 81.6%
Australia 1.1% 2.3% 2.4% -0.1% 75.7%
Brazil 1.4% -8.3% -7.9% -0.3% 77.1%
China P.R 8.4% 3.3% 6.3% -2.4% 81.2%
India 1.2% 27.4% 21.7% 3.7% 83.1%
Japan 1.2% -1.7% -3.8% 1.6% 72.3%
Russia Fed. 1.3% 4.0% -4.8% 6.3% 75.0%
US 15.4% 4.1% 4.9% -0.7% 85.4%

¹% of industry RPKs in 2015 ²Year-on-year change in load factor ³Load factor level

*Note: the seven domestic passenger markets for which broken-down data are available account for 30% of global total RPKs and approximately 82% of total domestic RPKs

• Brazil’s domestic market plunged by 8.3% year-on-year in March, the biggest contraction in more than 12 years.

• Russian traffic has bounced back from its November low point following the shutdown of Transaero, while load factor soared 6.3% percentage points to 75% on a 4.8% decline in capacity.
The Bottom line

“In just under a month Dublin will become the focus of the global air transport industry, when the 72nd IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit takes place there, 1-3 June. Europe is the world’s largest international market in terms of traffic flown by its carriers. And aviation supports 12 million European jobs and 4.1% of the continent’s GDP. But aviation could do much more if governments would address the triple whammy of high taxes, overly-complex and punitive regulations, and inadequate and inefficient infrastructure. Making Europe an easier place to do business will help aviation deliver even greater benefits to the economy,” said Tyler.