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Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for May showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) rose 4.6%, compared to the same month in 2015, which was the same level achieved in April. Capacity climbed 5.5%, which pushed the average load factor down 0.7 percentage points to 78.7%. Demand for domestic traffic rose 5.1%, outpacing international demand growth of 4.3%.

“After a very strong start to the year, demand growth is slipping back toward more historic levels. A combination of factors are likely behind this more moderated pace of demand growth. These include continuing terrorist activity and the fragile state of the global economy. Neither bode well for travel demand. And the shocks of Istanbul and the economic fallout of the Brexit vote make it difficult to see an early uptick,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

May 2016 (% year-on-year) World share1 RPK ASK PLF (%-pt)​2 PLF (level)​3
Total Market 100.0% 4.6% 5.5% ​-0.7% 78.7​%
Africa 2.2% 8.6% 9.4% ​-0.5% ​65.7%
Asia Pacific 31.5% 6.6% 6.9% ​-0.2% ​76.9%
Europe 26.7​% ​2.0% 2.8% ​-0.6% 80.2​%
Latin America 5.4% ​1.7% 1.3% ​0.3% ​79.4%
Middle East ​​9.4% 11.2% 15.4% ​-2.7% ​72.1%
North America 24.7% 3.0% ​3.4% ​-0.3% ​83.8%
(1)% of industry RPKs in 2015 (2)Year-on-year change in load factor (3)Load factor level

International Passenger Markets

Annual growth in international RPKs slowed for the third consecutive month, to 4.3%, from 5% recorded in April year-over-year. Airlines in all regions recorded growth. Total capacity climbed 6.1%, causing load factor to slip 1.3 percentage points to 77.1%

  • Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic rose 5.1% in May compared to the year-ago period. Capacity increased 6.4%, which caused load factor to slide 1.0 percentage point to 75.1%. Strong upward momentum has stalled in recent months with growth tracking sideways since the beginning of the year
  • European carriers’ May demand climbed just 2.1% over May 2015, reflecting continuing fallout from the Brussels terror attack. Capacity rose 3.5% and load factor dipped 1.1 percentage points to 80.6%, which despite the decline still was the highest among regions
  • Middle East carriers had an 11.8% rise in demand in May compared to a year ago, which was the largest increase among regions. Capacity increased 15.6%, however, and load factor dropped 2.4 percentage points to 71.9%. Growth in capacity has now exceeded traffic growth in 18 of the past 20 months
  • North American airlines’ traffic climbed 0.5% as carriers continue to focus on the larger and stronger domestic markets. Capacity rose 1.9% and load factor fell 1.1 percentage points to 80.1%.
  • Latin American airlines experienced a 5.1% increase in traffic in May compared to the same month last year. As with Europe, upward momentum has stalled. Capacity climbed 5.2% and load factor was flat at 80.2%
  • African airlines’ traffic rose 9.5%, continuing the trend of strong growth that is linked to the expansion of long-haul networks by the region’s carriers, particularly Ethiopian Airlines. Capacity rose 10.4%, and load factor slipped 0.5 percentage points to 64.5%

Domestic Passenger Markets

Domestic demand rose 5.1% in May compared to May 2015, which was up from the 4% year-on-year growth recorded in April. Results were decidedly mixed, with Brazil, Russia and Japan all showing declines. Domestic capacity climbed 4.4%, and load factor rose 0.5 percentage points to 81.7%.

May 2016 (% year-on-year) World share1 RPK ASK PLF (%-pt)​2 PLF (level)​3
Domestic 36.4% 5.1% 4.4% 0.5% 81.7%
Australia 1.1% 0.4% -2.9% ​2.5% 75.0%
Brazil 1.4% -7.7% -8.1% ​0.4% ​78.5%
China P.R. 8.4​% 9.8% 9.8% ​0.0% 80.3%
India 1.2% 21.0% 21.9% ​-0.7% 86.7%
Japan ​​1.2% -4.2% -3.5% ​-0.5% ​65.4%
Russian Federation 1.3% -3.5% -8.0% 3.5% ​74.8%
​US ​15.4% 4.4%​ 4.3%​ ​0.1% ​85.9%
(1)% of industry RPKs in 2015 (2)Year-on-year change in load factor (3)Load factor level

*Note: the seven domestic passenger markets for which broken-down data are available account for 30% of global total RPKs and approximately 82% of total domestic RPKs.
  • US domestic traffic climbed 4.4% in May. Having gone through a soft patch over the past six months in line with softening indicators of business confidence, demand appears to have resumed its upward trend
  • Brazil’s traffic continued to contract in May, falling 7.7% compared to a year ago amidst continuing political and economic turmoil. It is down more than 10% in seasonally-adjusted terms since early 2015

The Bottom line

“The shockwaves of the Brexit vote have extended worldwide and the fallout will affect the air transport industry, from both economic and regulatory perspectives. Aviation plays a vital role in supporting economic growth and development. As the post-Brexit regulatory framework is negotiated between the EU and the UK it is critical that there are no steps backward for aviation connectivity,” said Tyler.

View May air passenger results​ (pdf)

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents nearly 260 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic
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  • 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 31.5%, Europe 26.7%, North America 24.7%, Middle East 9.4%, Latin America 5.4%, and Africa 2.2%