The Middle East airlines, which include the three fast-growing major Gulf carriers, witnessed the fastest year-on-year growth in terms of international revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) so far this year, with robust growth on routes to and from Asia and Europe. The capacity of these carriers increased by 9.4 percent, and load factor dropped 3.1 percentage points to 73.1 percent, according to the latest data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). However, the growth of these airlines (measured in RPKs) slowed to 4.9 percent in March 2017 compared to a year ago, which was a considerable slowing from January and February year-over-year demand growth. The IATA, which represents nearly 265 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic, said that this is related more to developments seen last year, while any impacts from the laptop ban will be visible from April results onward. The airlines’ representative body (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for March 2017 showing that demand measured in RPKs rose 6.8 percent , compared to the same month a year ago. Capacity grew 6.1 percent and load factor climbed by half a percentage point to 80.4 percent , which was a record for the month. March demand growth represented a moderate slowdown relative to performance in February after adjusting for the distortion in the year-to-year comparisons owing to the extra day in February 2016.
The imposition of the ban on large electronics in the cabin on certain routes to the US and UK occurred too late in March to have an effect on traffic figures. “Strong traffic demand continued throughout the first quarter, supported by a combination of lower fares and a broad-based upturn in global economic conditions. The price of air travel has fallen by around 10 percent in real terms over the past year and that has contributed to record load factors. We will have to wait another month to see the impact of the laptop ban on-demand,” said Alexandre de Juniac (pictured), IATA’s Director General and CEO. March international passenger demand rose 6.4 percent compared to March 2016, which was a slight deceleration compared to February, after adjusting for the leap year distortion in February. Airlines in all regions recorded growth. Total capacity climbed 6.1 percent, and load factor improved 0.2 percent percentage points to 78.8 percent. European carriers saw March traffic climb 5.7 percent over March 2016. The strong upward trend in part is supported by momentum in the region’s economy. However, a wide variation in performance exists among market segments. Demand across the Atlantic has grown only modestly, while RPKs flown on routes to and from Asia and the Middle East are up by around 7-9 percent . March capacity rose 4.7 percent and load factor edged up 0.8 percentage points to 82.2 percent, highest among regions. Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic jumped 9.1 percent in March, compared to the year-ago period. Capacity increased by 7.4 percent, and load factor rose 1.2 percentage points to 78.7 percent. Growth within the Asia region is solid while traffic on the Asia-Europe route has continued to recover strongly from a terrorism-related disruption in early-2016. Demand has risen at an annualized rate of 22 percent since November.