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IATA 2018 passenger traffic

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for 2018 showing that demand, as measured by Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs), rose by 6.5 per cent compared to full-year 2017. IATA points out this represented a slowdown compared to the 2017 annual growth of 8.0 per cent, but last year once again provided above-trend growth.


February 11, 2019
By Wings Staff



Full year 2018 capacity climbed 6.1 per cent, and load factor edged up 0.3 percentage points to a record 81.9 per cent, exceeding the previous high set in 2017. December RPKs rose 5.3 per cent against the same month in 2017, the slowest year-over-year pace since January 2018 and, according to IATA, a continuation of the trend that saw demand growth decelerate to an annualized rate of 5.0 per cent over the course of the 2018 second half compared to a 9.0 per cent pace in the first half.

“2018 was another year of strong passenger demand, as aviation continued to support the global economy,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. “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 U.S.-China trade tensions, are creating some uncertainty to this positive outlook.”


The association, which represents some 290 airlines comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic, provided 2018 results for both international and domestic passenger traffic. International passenger traffic in 2018 rose 6.3 per cent compared to 2017, down from 8.6 per cent annual growth the year before. Capacity rose 5.7 per cent and load factor climbed by 0.4 percentage points to 81.2 per cent.

All regions recorded year-over-year increases in traffic, explains IATA, led by Asia-Pacific. North America and Africa were the only two regions to post stronger demand growth in 2018 compared to the prior year’s performance

Asia-Pacific airlines’ 2018 traffic rose 7.3 per cent, compared to 2017, driven by what IATA describes as robust regional economic expansion and an increase in route options for travelers. Although this was a slowdown from the 10.5 per cent year-over-year growth recorded in 2017 versus 2016, IATA points out it was strong enough to lead all the regions for a second consecutive year with capacity rising to 6.4 per cent and load factor up to 0.7 percentage points to 80.6 per cent.

North American airlines, according to IATA, had their fastest demand growth since 2011, with full-year traffic rising 5.0 per cent compared to 2017, an increase from 4.7 per cent annual growth in 2017. Here too, however, demand growth slackened noticeably in the last two quarters. Capacity in North America climbed 3.7 per cent and load factor was up 1.0 percentage points to 82.6 per cent, second highest among the regions.

Domestic RPKs are most important for North American airlines, explains IATA, as it represents about 66 per cent of their operations. Overall domestic air travel climbed 7.0 per cent in 2018, according to IATA, which was unchanged from the rate in 2017. All markets showed annual growth led by India and China, which both posted double-digit annual increases.

India’s domestic market posted the fastest full-year domestic growth rate for the fourth consecutive year, with an 18.6 per cent annual demand increase. IATA explains India’s domestic demand is underpinned by robust economic expansion and increasing numbers of city pairs. Australia represented the opposite picture, according to IATA, as annual traffic rose just 1.4 per cent, which was still a slight increase over the rate of 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… Aviation makes the modern world possible, but we depend on borders that are open to people and trade to be effective. In 2019, we will be strong advocates against a rising tide of protectionism and trade conflict, so that the Business of Freedom can continue to do its part to make the world a more prosperous and happier place.”