Passenger traffic hits 12-year high

Worldwide passenger traffic in the first half of 2017 rose to a 12-year high, propelled by a brighter global economy and lower airfares.

Global air travel demand, measured in total revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), climbed 7.9% from the same period last year, according to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA director-general Alexandre de Juniac cautioned that the stimulus of lower fares is likely to fade as airline costs rise while uncertainties such as Brexit require careful monitoring.

Nonetheless, the industry expects to see above-trend growth this year, he said.

In its analysis, IATA said nearly three-quarters of the year-on-year increase in global RPKs in the first six months of 2017 was driven by airlines based in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

The robust finish to 2016 for seasonally adjusted (SA) traffic has also provided a favourable starting point for RPK growth rates in 2017.

In fact, even if SA traffic had not risen at all in the first half of 2017, year-on-year RPK growth in that period would have been in the region of 6%.

Industry-wide passenger load factor posted an all-time high for the first six months of 80.7%, up 1.3 percentage points compared with the year-earlier period.

International passenger traffic grew by 8.1% in the first half, while domestic volumes were up 7.4%.

The Middle East was the only region to see a deceleration in annual international RPK growth, up 7.3% in the first half compared with 11% a year ago.

International RPKs by airlines based in Asia-Pacific grew by 9.1% year-on-year in the first six months, compared with 8.4% growth in the same period of 2016.

Year-on-year growth in international RPKs flown by European airlines accelerated to 8.8%, up from 4% a year ago.

The stronger growth relates to a combination of the weaker traffic trend seen early last year and increased momentum in the regional economic backdrop.

IATA said consumer confidence in the euro zone recently reached a 16-year high.

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