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Press Release No.: 14

Date: 8 March 2018

January Passenger Demand Growth Slows on Temporary Factors

Translations: French (pdf) Spanish (pdf) Chinese (pdf)

Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for January 2018 showing traffic (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 4.6% compared to January 2017. This was the slowest year-over-year increase in nearly four years, but results were affected by temporary factors including the later timing of the Lunar New Year in 2018 as well as less favorable comparisons with the strong upward trend in traffic seen in late 2016-early 2017.

IATA estimates the impact of the later Lunar New Year-related travel period holiday represented around two-fifths of the slowdown in year-over-year growth for the month. January capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) rose 5.3%, and load factor slipped half a percentage point to 79.6%.

"Despite the slower start, economic momentum is supporting rising passenger demand in 2018. That said, concerns over a possible trade war involving the US could have a serious dampening effect on global market confidence, spilling over into demand for air travel," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO.

International Passenger Markets

January 2018 (% YEAR-ON-YEAR)
Total Market100.0%
Asia Pacific33.7%
Latin America5.2%
Middle East​​9.5%
North America23.0%

(1) % of industry RPKs in 2016 (2) Year-on-year change in load factor (3) Load factor level

International passenger demand growth slowed to 4.4% in January, from 6.1% in December, with all regions recording growth, led by Latin America and Europe. Capacity rose 5.3% and load factor dipped 0.7 percentage point to 79.6%.

  • Asia-Pacific carriers recorded a demand increase of 4.6% compared to January 2017, which was a 46-month low. This largely was owing to the impact of the later Lunar New Year, which fell in mid-February this year. Capacity rose 6.1%, and load factor dropped 1.2 percentage points to 80.4%.
  • European carriers' international traffic climbed 6.0% in January compared to the year-ago period, up from 5.8% growth in December 2017. The region was the only one to see an acceleration in traffic compared to the prior month. This is being supported by the buoyant economic conditions in the region. Capacity rose 5.0% and load factor was up 0.7 percentage point to 80.8%.
  • Middle East carriers had the weakest growth, with demand up just 0.5% compared to January 2017, the slowest pace since September 2008. The market to/from North America has been especially hard hit owing to factors including the temporary ban on large portable electronic devices as well as the proposed travel bans to the US from some countries in the region. Capacity climbed 4.6% and load factor fell 3.1 percentage points to 76.8%.
  • North American airlines experienced a 3.5% rise in traffic over a year ago, but capacity rose 4.3% and load factor dipped 0.7 percentage point compared to a year ago to 79.6%. The relatively healthy economic backdrop in the region is helping support outbound demand but this is being partly offset by a negative impact on inbound traffic to the US.
  • Latin American airlines' traffic climbed 7.3% in January compared to January 2017, strongest among the regions. Capacity rose 8.2%, however, and load factor slipped 0.7 percentage point to 82.6%, which still was the highest among the regions. Stronger economic conditions in Europe are helping support rising demand on the market between Europe and South America in particular.
  • African airlines saw January traffic rise 4.9% against a mixed backdrop for the region's largest economies. In Nigeria, business confidence has risen sharply while in South Africa, political uncertainly continues to inflict an economic toll. The region's capacity rose 4.2%, and load factor edged up 0.5 percentage point to 70.3%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

Domestic traffic climbed 5.1% in January year-on-year, down from 7% growth recorded in December. The slowdown is entirely attributable to the later Lunar New Year holiday period in 2018. All markets showed growth, led by India, which experienced its 41st consecutive month of double-digit traffic increases. Domestic capacity increased 5.3% and load factor slid 0.2 percentage point to 79.8%.

Jan 2018 (% YEAR-ON-YEAR)
Dom. Australia (4)0.9%
Dom. Brazil (4)1.2%
Dom. China P.R. (4)9.1​%
Dom. India (4)1.4%
Dom. Japan (4)​​1.1%
Dom. Russian Fed (4)1.3%
​Dom. USA (4)14.5%​

(1) % of industry RPKs in 2016 
(2) Year-on-year change in load factor 
(3) Load factor level 
(4) The seven domestic passenger markets for w hich broken-dow n data are available account for 30% of global total RPKs and approximately 82% of total domestic RPKs 

  • China's domestic traffic rose 6.6% in January, which was a slowdown compared to 14.1% year-over-year growth in December. With the Lunar New Year falling in February, that month is expected to see a big jump in annual traffic growth.
  • Russian domestic traffic grew 7.9% compared to January 2017. Traffic is being supported by strong economic conditions, helped by higher oil prices.

The Bottom Line:

"Aviation is the business of freedom. It liberates us from the constraints of geography, distance and time, enabling us to lead better lives; and it makes the world a better place. For the business of freedom to grow the benefits it generates, we need borders that are open to trade and travel, and infrastructure to support the demand for connectivity. Governments have the main role to play in these areas by preserving the benefits of global commerce and ensuring adequate airport and airspace capacity to cope with an expected doubling of demand by 2036," said de Juniac.

View full January passenger traffic results

For more information, please contact:
Corporate Communications
Tel: +41 22 770 2967
Email: corpcomms@iata.org

Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 280 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic.
  • You can follow us at http://twitter.com/iata2press for news specially catered for the media.
  • All figures are provisional and represent total reporting at time of publication plus estimates for missing data. Historic figures may be revised.
  • Domestic RPKs accounted for about 36% of the total market. It is most important for North American airlines as it is about 66% of their operations. In Latin America, domestic travel accounts for 46% of operations, primarily owing to the large Brazilian market. For Asia-Pacific carriers, the large markets in India, China and Japan mean that domestic travel accounts for 45% of the region's operations. It is less important for Europe and most of Africa where domestic travel represents just 11% and 14% of operations, respectively. And it is negligible for Middle Eastern carriers for whom domestic travel represents just 4% of operations.
  • Explanation of measurement terms:
    • RPK: Revenue Passenger Kilometers measures actual passenger traffic
    • ASK: Available Seat Kilometers measures available passenger capacity
    • PLF: Passenger Load Factor is % of ASKs used.
  • IATA statistics cover international and domestic scheduled air traffic for IATA member and non-member airlines.
  • Total passenger traffic market shares by region of carriers in terms of RPK are: Asia-Pacific 33.7%, Europe 26.5%, North America 23.0%, Middle East 9.5%, Latin America 5.2%, and Africa 2.2%.

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