Iata says global demand for air travel slows in March

Middle East airlines' passenger traffic falls 3% in the month, International Air Transport Association says

FILE PHOTO: International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac speaks in Geneva, Switzerland, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo
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Global demand for air travel climbed 3.1 per cent in March, the slowest pace for any month in nine years, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The slowdown was mainly due to the timing of Easter holiday this year, which fell almost a month later than in 2018, Iata said on Thursday. Capacity grew 4.2 per cent in March while load factor, a measure of seats filled, dropped 0.9 percentage point to 81.7 per cent.

“While traffic growth slowed considerably in March, we do not see the month as a bellwether for the rest of 2019," said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director-general. "Nevertheless, the economic backdrop has become somewhat less favourable."

The International Monterary Fund warned last month that the global economy is slowing more than expected, prompting it to cut its forecast for world economic growth this year. The IMF said the global economy will likely grow 3.3 per cent this year, the slowest expansion since 2016. The forecast cut 0.2 percentage points from the IMF’s outlook in January.

Almost all regions saw growth in international passenger demand in March compared to the same month last year.

Regional carriers, however, posted a 3 per cent drop in passenger traffic in March, making it the second consecutive month of decline. Capacity outstripped demand, growing 2.3 per cent while load factors, which measure capacity utilisation, dropped four percentage points to 73.8 per cent.

Despite the slowdown in March of global passenger traffic, Iata remained positive on its outlook for the year while acknowledging the challenges that the aviation industry faces that led to failures of airlines such as India's Jet Airways and Iceland's collapsed WOW Air.

"The outlook for air travel remains solid," Mr de Juniac said. "Global connectivity has never been better ... and air fares continue to decline in real terms."

Iata will hold its annual meeting in June in South Korea's capital Seoul where industry leaders will gather to discuss issues including safety, security, infrastructure and the environment.