Global passenger traffic results for April show a healthy increase in demand, a result the International Air Transport Association (IATA) describes as a “pleasant surprise”.
Total revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 7.5% compared to April 2013, an improvement over March growth of 2.9%.
The year-on-year comparison is somewhat biased by the timing of the Easter holiday, which occurred in April 2014, a month later than in 2013, IATA noted. April capacity increased 5.8%, propelling load factor up 1.2% to 79.4 %.
“April’s demand growth was a pleasant surprise in the face of the moderating trend of recent months but it is not clear whether the acceleration in demand is sustainable in view of global economic trends including slower growth in China,” IATA director general and chief executive, Tony Tyler, commented.
April international passenger demand was up 8.5% compared to the year-ago period with airlines in all regions recording growth and the strongest gains among Middle East carriers. Capacity rose 6.9% and load factor climbed 1.2 percentage points to 79.0%.
As usual, Asia-Pacific carriers did well. Traffic from the region rose 6.7% compared to the year-ago period but capacity rose 7.7% and load factor slipped 0.7% to 75.7%.
“Economic conditions in the region do not support further acceleration in demand growth, with China continuing to show weakness and Japan starting to see some reversal of previous growth momentum,” IATA noted.
In Japan, a recent sales tax increase caused indicators for economic activity to decline sharply in April.
European carriers saw demand climb 7.9% in April versus April 2013. Economic activity in the Eurozone continues to improve, albeit at rates that are below expectations. Capacity rose 5.4% and load factor climbed 1.9 percentage points to 81.4%, the highest for any region.
North American airlines experienced a 4.9% rise in traffic compared to April a year ago. Capacity rose 3.3% pushing load factor up 1.2% to 80.8%. Data suggest that underlying growth trends in business activity are positive and downward pressure on employment is easing, which should support stronger growth in air travel demand in coming months.
Middle East carriers’ demand soared 18.6% in April, easily the strongest growth for any region. Capacity climbed 13.1% and load factor jumped 3.8 percentage points to 80.8%. Airlines in the Middle East continue to benefit from the strength of regional economies and solid growth in business-related premium travel.
Latin American airlines’ traffic rose 8.2% compared to April 2013. The outlook for Latin American carriers remains broadly positive, with continued robust performance of economies such as Colombia, Peru and Chile, and the upcoming demand to be generated by the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, IATA noted.
On the downside, however, trade volumes have made no progress this year compared to the highs reached at the end of 2013, suggesting that acceleration in business-related travel is unlikely in the near term. Capacity rose 5.2% and load factor climbed 2.2% to 79.1%.
African airlines had the weakest demand growth, with traffic up 3.9% compared to April 2013, while capacity rose 8.1%, resulting in a 2.7% drop in load factor to 66.2%, the lowest load factor for any region.
Edited by Peter Needham