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Howling winds blow dent in world air traffic

November 16, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Hurricanes and typhoons depressed global passenger air traffic growth for September, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has confirmed in its report of results for a month which set records for storm activity.

September saw tens of thousands of flights cancelled as Typhoon Jebi hit Japan, Super Typhoon Mangkhut devastated the Philippines, Hurricane Florence struck the US West Coast, Hurricane Helene impacted part of the British Isles, Hurricane Olivia roared over outlying Hawaiian islands and Hurricane Rosa slammed into Baja California and Mexico.

IATA said demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs) rose 5.5% compared to the same month in 2017. This was a slowdown from the 6.4% growth recorded in August year-over-year. Capacity climbed 5.8% and load factor slipped for the first time in eight months, down marginally (0.3%) compared to the year-earlier period, to 81.4%.

Impacts from severe hurricane and typhoon activity in September shaved around 0.1-0.2% off expected growth, IATA confirmed. While the impact was small, it may be the first time it has happened.

Even after accounting for the storm impact, however, monthly traffic demand was below the 6.7% year-to-date pace.

“While September’s traffic growth was in line with the long-term average, it represents a moderation compared to recent months,” IATA director general and chief executive, Alexandre de Juniac, declared.

“This is likely owing to the anticipated reduced demand boost from lower airfares due to rising airline cost pressures, particularly fuel. Heightened uncertainty about trade policies and mounting protectionist policies may also be having an impact.”

Asia-Pacific airline traffic rose 5.4% in September compared to the year-ago period. This was down from 7.4% annual growth in August. The steep decline in part reflects the impacts of typhoon activity in the region including the multi-day closure of Kansai International Airport. Capacity increased 4.3%, and load factor climbed 0.9 percentage point to 79.2%.

Japan’s domestic traffic plunged 5% as the devastating Typhoon Jebi took a big toll, including the multi-day closure of Kansai International Airport.

Fortunately, IATA estimates the impact on Japan is likely to be short-lived.

In Australia, domestic traffic rose 0.9% in September, from a 1.7% rise in August. Demand in Australia has been “tracking sideways” in seasonally adjusted terms over the past year or so, IATA noted.

Written by Peter Needham

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