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September 2017 IATA Air Passenger Market Analysis
Hurricane impacts visible in Sept, alongside a slowing RPK trend

Solid industry-wide RPK growth in September…
Industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) grew by 5.7% year-on-year in September – slightly faster than the ten-year average growth rate (5.5%).

Following a strong first half of the year and robust growth during the peak northern-hemisphere summer period, industry-wide RPKs have now grown by 7.7% so far this year to date. All told, 2017 is set to be another year of above-trend passenger growth, some way ahead of the five-year average pace (6.6%).

…but an impact from Hurricanes Irma and Maria

That said, September’s annual RPK growth rate was the slowest since February. Moreover, passenger volumes fell in SA month-on-month terms for the first time since February and for only the third time in the past 12 months.

This month-on-month decline mainly reflected the impact of disruption caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria on airline operations in the Americas. There is likely to be significant ongoing impacts on passenger traffic to and from the most affected Caribbean islands. But the fact that airport operations in the major US airports have since returned to normal suggests that the industry-wide impact will largely be reversed in next month’s data.

Upward trend in SA traffic has slowed

More generally, and as we have noted before, the bigger picture is that the upward trend in SA RPKs has slowed from that seen at the end of 2016. Even looking through the hurricane-related disruption in September, industry-wide RPKs are currently trending upwards at an annualized pace (~6%) of around half of that seen during H2 2016.

Highlights of the September 2017 Air Passenger Market Analysis

  • Global revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased by a solid 5.7% in September compared to a year ago.
  • While the upward trend in RPKs has slowed, 2017 is set to be another year of above-average passenger growth.
  • Hurricanes Irma and Maria weighed on volumes this month, but their impacts are expected to largely be temporary.
  • The global passenger load factor posted a record high for the month (81.6% of available seat kilometres).
  • India topped the domestic growth chart again, while domestic US and Australia RPKs both fell in annual terms. Download the full document here. 

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