The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports global passenger traffic results for March show that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs) rose 9.5%, compared to the same month a year ago, the fastest pace in 12 months.
Capacity (available seat kilometres, or ASKs) grew 6.4% and load factor climbed 2.3 percentage points to 82.4%, which set a record for the month, following on the record set in February. All regions except for the Middle East posted record load factors.
“Demand for air travel remains strong, supported by the comparatively healthy economic backdrop and business confidence levels. But rising cost inputs — particularly fuel prices — suggest that any demand boosts from lower fares will moderate going into the second quarter,” said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac.
March international passenger demand rose 10.6% compared to March 2017, which was up from 7.4% year-over-year growth recorded in February. All regions showed strong increases. Total capacity climbed 6.6%, and load factor improved 2.9 percentage points to 81.5%.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic soared 11.6% in March, compared to the year-ago period. European carriers saw March traffic climb 9.8% over March 2017, up from 6.9% annual growth in February. North American airlines posted a 9.5% traffic rise in March compared to the year-ago period, well above the five-year average growth rate of 3.6%. Capacity climbed 4.9% and load factor was up 3.5 percentage points to 83.5%, which was the second highest among the regions. The weakening US dollar is having a positive effect on inbound traffic, while the comparatively robust domestic economic backdrop is supporting outbound demand.
“The strong first quarter provides healthy momentum heading into the peak travel period in the Northern Hemisphere. Benign economic conditions are supporting — and being supported by — good demand for air travel. It’s a mutually beneficial effect that smart governments recognize and encourage, by embracing affordable, quality aviation infrastructure and reasonable commercial regulation,” said de Juniac. “But we need to deliver that message every day. The setback to modernizing air traffic management in the US, and a proposal to stop construction of the new airport in Mexico, are reminders of that fact.”