Passenger traffic records growth amid 737 Max crisis

Despite the economic and political challenges of year 2019, passenger traffic demand recorded slow but steady growth across regions.
 
The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) full-year passenger traffic results, released recently, showed that demand rose by 4.2 per cent compared to the full year of 2018. 
 
African airlines led all regions with a 5.0 per cent demand increase, though down from 6.3 per cent growth recorded for 2018. 

 
Capacity of African airlines rose by 4.5 per cent, and load factor edged up 0.3 percentage point to 71.3 per cent. Airlines in the region benefitted from a generally supportive economic backdrop in 2019 as well as increases in air transport connectivity.
 
The 2019 global result is a slowdown compared to 2018’s annual growth of 7.3 per cent and marked the first year since the global financial crisis in 2009 with passenger demand below the long-term trend of around 5.5 per cent annual growth. 
 
Full-year 2019 capacity climbed 3.4 per cent, and the load factor rose 0.7 percentage point to a record high of 82.6 per cent. The previous high was 81.9 per cent set in 2018. 
 
December 2019 demand increased 4.5 per cent against the same month in 2018. That was an improvement over the 3.3 per cent annual growth recorded in November, primarily due to solid demand in North America.
   
IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said airlines did well to maintain steady growth last year in the face of a number of challenges.
 
“A softer economic backdrop, weak global trade activity, and political and geopolitical tensions took their toll on demand. Astute capacity management, and the effects of the 737 Max grounding, contributed to another record load factor, helping the industry to manage through weaker demand and improving environmental performance,” de Juniac said.
 
The 2019 international passenger traffic climbed 4.1 per cent compared to 2018, down from 7.1 per cent annual growth the year before. Capacity rose 3.0 per cent and load factor edged up 0.8 percentage point to 82.0 per cent.
   
Asia-Pacific airlines’ full-year traffic increased 4.5 per cent in 2019, which was a large decline compared to 8.5 per cent growth in 2018. This reflected the impact of the US-China trade war as well as weakening business confidence and economic activity. Capacity rose 4.1 per cent, and load factor ticked up 0.3 percentage point to 80.9 per cent.
   
European carriers saw a 4.4 per cent traffic rise in 2019, which was down from 7.5 per cent annual growth in 2018. Capacity rose 3.7 per cent and load factor increased 0.6 percentage point to 85.6 per cent, which was the highest for any region. The lowered results are attributable to generally slowing economic activity; declining business confidence, compounded by industrial disputes (strikes); Brexit uncertainty and the collapse of a number of airlines.
   
de Juniac said 2019 was a difficult year for aviation and 2020 is off to a tragic and challenging beginning. 
 
“The shooting down of PS 752 in January was inexcusable. Commercial aircraft are instruments of peace, not military targets. To honor the victims of this tragedy we must address this challenge with governments and stakeholders.

Our thoughts are also with the injured, and the families of those who lost their lives, in the PC2193 accident in Turkey yesterday. Safety is the aviation industry’s number one priority and we are united in our desire to understand and learn from the circumstances of this tragedy.   
 
“Today, headlines are also focused on the novel coronavirus. From our experience of past outbreaks, airlines have well-developed standards and best practices to keep travel safe. And airlines are assisting the World Health Organisation (WHO) and public health authorities in efforts to contain the outbreak in line with the International Health Regulations.
 
“There currently is no advice from WHO to restrict travel or trade. But it is clear that demand has fallen on routes associated with China, and airlines are responding to this by cutting capacity for both domestic and international China. The situation is evolving fast, but we are observing significant schedules adjustments for February,” de Juniac said.

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