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February 2018 IATA Air Passenger Market Analysis
Passenger growth rebounds in Feb after Lunar New Year distortion

RPK growth rebounded in February as expected...
As expected, year-on-year growth in air passenger volumes rebounded in February following the distortion last month owing to the later timing of Lunar New Year this year. Industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased by 7.6% year-on-year compared to February 2017, up from 4.6% in January.

…although the strong demand trend seen a year ago is affecting the annual comparison

Overall, global RPKs grew by 5.9% in year-on-year terms over the first two months of 2018 combined – the slowest annual growth over this period in five years. However, it is important to note that year-to-date RPK growth so far in 2018 has been affected by the comparison with the very strong upward trend in seasonally adjusted (SA) passenger traffic in early 2017. We estimate that this has reduced the annual growth rate so far this year to date by around 0.6 percentage points relative to where it would have been had the SA traffic trend not been so strong a year ago.

In any case, the key point is that global passenger volumes have continued to trend upwards solidly in recent months, with passenger volumes currently rising at a 6-6.5% annualized rate. To put this into context, while this is slower than the full-year pace of growth seen in 2017 (7.6%) it is still well ahead of the ten-year average rate (5.5%).

Ongoing solid upward trend for African traffic
International RPKs flown by carriers based in Africa grew by 6.3% year-on-year in February. The upward trend in traffic remains solid, and may find further support from a tentative improvement in the region’s largest economies: business confidence in Nigeria has risen sharply over the past 15 months, helped by recent rises in oil prices, while a reduction in political uncertainty in South Africa recently helped business confidence to return to positive territory for the first time in more than a year.

Highlights of the February 2018 Air Passenger Market Analysis

  • As expected, year-on-year growth in industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rebounded in February following the distortion last month from temporary factors including the later timing of Lunar New Year in 2018.
  • The upward trend in passenger volumes is continuing to be supported by robust global economic conditions.
  • The industry-wide load factor posted a record high for the month of Feb (80.4%). All regions except the Middle East posted record highs for the month, while the domestic India load factor exceeded 90% for the first time ever.
  • Carriers based in Latin America posted the fastest international RPK growth of all regions in February. Meanwhile, year-on-year growth in domestic India RPKs remained in double-digit territory for the 42 nd month in a row. Download the full document here. 

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