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March passenger demand growth slows on later easter holiday

©IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for March 2019 showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) rose 3.1%, compared to the same month a year ago, which was the slowest pace for any month in nine years.

This largely was owing to the timing of the Easter holiday, which fell nearly a month later than in 2018. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the underlying growth rate has been relatively steady since October 2018 at a 4.1% annualized pace. Capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) for the month of March grew 4.2% and load factor dropped 0.9 percentage point to 81.7%.

March international passenger demand rose just 2.5% compared to March 2018, which was down from 4.5% year-over-year growth recorded in February and almost 5 percentage points below its five-year average pace. All regions showed growth with the exception of the Middle East. Total capacity climbed 4.0%, and load factor fell 1.2 percentage points to 80.8%. European carriers saw March demand increase 4.7% over March 2018, down from 7.5% annual growth in February. The result partly reflects falling business confidence in the Eurozone and ongoing uncertainty about Brexit. March capacity rose 5.4% and load factor slid 0.6 percentage point to 84.2%, which still was the highest among regions. Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic climbed 2.0% in March, compared to the year-ago period, which was down from 4% growth in February. However, results were stronger on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Capacity increased 4.0%, and load factor dropped 1.6 percentage points to 80.1%. Middle East carriers’ passenger demand fell 3.0% in March, marking a second consecutive month of declining traffic. This reflects the broader structural changes in the industry which have been taking place in the region. Capacity increased 2.3%, and load factor plunged 4.0 percentage points to 73.8%. North American airlines posted a 3.0% traffic rise in March compared to the year-ago period, which was down somewhat from 4.2% year-on-year growth in February. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, traffic has been trending strongly upwards, however. Capacity climbed 2.6% and load factor edged up 0.3 percentage point to 83.7%. Latin American airlines had the fastest traffic growth at 5.5%, compared to a year ago, up from 4.6% in February. March capacity rose 5.8%, and load factor dipped 0.2 percentage point to 81.9%. Latin America was the only region to show an increase in the year-on-year growth rate for March compared to February. In seasonally-adjusted terms traffic continues to trend upward sharply, notwithstanding economic and political uncertainty in some key countries. African airlines’ demand increased 2.1% compared to March 2018, down from a 2.5% rise in February. Capacity climbed 1.1%, and load factor strengthened 0.7 percentage point to 71.4%. The upward traffic trend has softened since mid-2018 in line with falling business confidence in some of the region’s key economies.

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