The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for November 2016 showing the strongest demand growth in nine months. Total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose 7.6% compared to November 2015. Capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 6.5%, and load factor rose 0.8 percentage points to 78.9%.
"Stronger demand for air travel reflects—and is supporting--a pick-up in the global economic cycle. As the stimulus effect of lower oil prices recedes in the rear view mirror, the strength of the economic cycle will play a key role in the pace of demand growth in 2017," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
November international passenger demand rose 8.0% compared to the year earlier, with airlines in all regions showing growth.
Total capacity climbed 6.8%, and load factor edged up 0.9 percentage points to 77.1%.
European carriers saw demand increase by 8.3% in November 2016, while traffic grew at an annualized pace of 12% over the past five months or so.
This suggests that the disruption caused by terrorism and political instability has lifted, against a backdrop of a growing Eurozone economy. Capacity rose 6.8% and load factor climbed 1.1 percentage point to 80.8%.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ November traffic also climbed 8.3% compared to the year-ago period. Capacity increased 7.1% and load factor rose 0.8 percentage points to 77.4%. The strong upward trend in demand has slowed recently but it is not clear whether this is a longer-term development or just a brief pause.
Middle East carriers led all regions with a 12.2% demand increase. But the upward trend in the region’s seasonally adjusted traffic has paused, with November’s level coming in unchanged from that of July. Capacity rose 11.6% and load factor rose 0.3 percentage points to 68.7%.
North American airlines’ traffic climbed 1.5% in November. Traffic across the Pacific is growing rapidly but North Atlantic demand is moderating. Capacity rose 1.2% and load factor edged up 0.2 percentage points to 78.7%.
Latin American airlines saw November traffic climb 7.3% compared to November 2015. Capacity increased by just 2.9%, pushing load factor up 3.4 percentage points to 82.2%. The upward trend in international traffic has remained strong despite difficult conditions on the North America-South America route, supported by healthy international demand within South America.
African airlines experienced an 8.2% rise in demand compared to November 2015. Economic conditions in much of Africa remain challenging, particularly in the biggest economies of Nigeria and South Africa, but the upward trend in seasonally-adjusted passenger traffic has reasserted itself more recently, supported by strong demand on routes to and from Asia and the Middle East. Capacity rose 5.1% and load factor climbed 1.9 percentage points to 66.3%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Domestic travel demand rose 7.1% in November 2016 compared to the same month in 2015, but results continued to vary widely, with China, India and Russia showing double-digit growth while demand declined in Brazil and Japan. Domestic capacity climbed 6.1%, and load factor improved 0.8 percentage points to 82.2%.
Air travel in Japan declined 0.5% in November. Traffic has trended sideways in seasonally-adjusted terms for the best part of two years, against a backdrop of weak momentum in consumer spending.
Russia’s 15.5% increase largely reflects favorable comparisons with the year-earlier period following the collapse of Transaero in autumn 2015. But the recovery in seasonally-adjusted domestic traffic is continuing, alongside signs that the country’s economic recession is easing.
The Bottom Line:
"The airline industry continues to deliver strong results. In 2017, for a third consecutive year, the industry’s return on invested capital will exceed the cost of capital. Passengers benefit from the industry’s success. Travel has never been more accessible—with great fares, many options and more destinations. Nevertheless uncertainty lies ahead.
"The threat of terrorism, questions over the durability of the economic upswing, rising oil prices and increasing protectionist rhetoric are among the concerns. The industry has reshaped itself and strengthened its resilience to shocks. We should see another solid year of collective profitability for the airlines in 2017. But we must be vigilant," said de Juniac.