IATA Says Passenger Demand Continued in 2018 But Momentum Slowed

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Global airline passenger traffic continued its upward trend in 2018, increasing by more than six percent over the previous year. However, growth momentum has slowed, presenting a mixed picture of the industry.

New data just released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) increased a healthy 6.5 percent last year compared to the full-year of 2017.

White passenger airplane in the sky.: Plane flying in the sky. (photo courtesy of iStock / Getty Images Plus / AlexeyPetrov)

“Although this represented a slowdown compared to the 2017 annual growth of eight percent, it was another year of above-trend growth,” IATA said in a statement.

Full-year 2018 capacity climbed 6.1 percent, IATA added. December RPKs meanwhile, rose 5.3 percent against the same month in 2017, the slowest year-over-year pace since January 2018.

“2018 was another year of strong passenger demand, as aviation continued to support the global economy. We expect similar if somewhat moderating performance in 2019. Nevertheless, slowing growth in the second half of 2018, coupled with concerns over issues including Brexit and US-China trade tensions are creating some uncertainty to this positive outlook,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

The just-released data also reveals that all regions of the world recorded year-over-year increases in traffic, led by Asia-Pacific where 2018 traffic rose 7.3 percent, compared to 2017. The increase in traffic was likely driven by robust regional economic expansion and increased route options for travelers, said IATA.

European carriers’ saw international traffic climb 6.6 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, a drop from 2017’s 9.4 percent growth. In the Middle East, carriers’ traffic increased 4.2 percent last year, down from 6.9 percent growth in 2017

North American airlines had their fastest demand growth since 2011, with full-year traffic rising five percent compared to 2017, an increase from 4.7 percent annual growth in 2017.

“Here too, however, demand growth slackened noticeably in the last two quarters,” said IATA. “This may be owing to increasing concerns over the US economic outlook and trade tensions with China.”

Latin American airlines’ traffic climbed 6.9 percent in 2018, a slowdown compared to the 8.8 percent annual growth in 2017.

“Aviation continued to demonstrate why it is the Business of Freedom in 2018,” said de Juniac. “We safely transported more than 4.3 billion passengers. These people used air connectivity to conduct trade and business, reunite with friends and loved ones, explore the world, and, in some cases even to begin new lives.”

“Aviation makes the modern world possible, but we depend on borders that are open to people and trade to be effective,” de Juniac added.

The organization vowed to be strong advocates against a rising tide of protectionism and trade conflict, in 2019, so that the “Business of Freedom” can continue to do its part to make the world a more prosperous and happier place.

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