Passenger demand rebounds after hurricanes

Global air travel demand rebounded in October after the hurricane-related disruptions in September, with Asia-Pacific airlines leading the growth.

Global passenger traffic demand rose 7.2 percent in October 2017, compared to the same month last year, as capacity grew by 6.2 percent.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the demand, which is measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), was a strong bounce-back after the hurricane season disrupted scores of flights in the Americas.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and chief executive, said: “As expected, the recent severe weather in the Americas region had only a temporary impact on the healthy travel demand we have seen this year, and we remain on course for another year of above-trend growth.”

Region World share RPK
Africa 2.20% 5.70%
Asia Pacific 32.90% 10.10%
Europe 26.4​% 6.30%
Latin America 5.20% 6.70%
Middle East ​​9.6% 6.80%
North America 23.80% 4.80%
Total Market 100.00% 7.20%

Source: IATA (October 2017 - % year-on-year)

The global picture:

Asia-Pacific airlines led all regions with traffic growth of 10.3 percent compared to the year-ago period, which was up from an 8.7 percent rise in September. Capacity climbed 8.4 percent and load factor rose 1.3 percentage points to 78 percent. Seasonally-adjusted passenger volumes are rising at an annualized rate of 8-9 percent. 

European carriers' October demand climbed 6.2 percent over October 2016, which was a slowdown compared to the 7.2 percent year-over-year growth recorded for September. Capacity increased 4.5 percent.

IATA said that while economic conditions have shown strong improvement over the past year or so, the upward trend in seasonally-adjusted traffic has slowed considerably since May. This reflects the nature of international travel in the region, which is predominantly short-haul and hence, highly-price sensitive.

Middle East carriers experienced a 6.9 percent rise in demand in October, improved from 3.9 percent in September. Capacity increased 5.3 percent, and load factor climbed 1 percentage point to 69.6 percent. As in Europe, the upward trend in RPKs has slowed.

Demand to and from North America fell in year-on-year terms for the seventh consecutive month in September (the most recent month for which route-specific figures are available) and it remains the only international market not to have grown in annual terms this year.

Traffic has been heavily affected by the now-lifted ban on portable electronic devices, as well as from the proposed travel bans to the US.

North American airlines' traffic climbed 3.7 percent in October compared to the year-ago period, lowest among the regions but an improvement compared to the hurricane-impacted 3 percent growth in September.

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Capacity rose 5.2 percent and load factor dropped 1.1 percentage points to 79.2 percent. North America was one of just two regions to post a load factor decline.

IATA said there continue to be indications that inbound travel to the US is being deterred by the additional security measures now involved with travelling to that country.

Latin American carriers had an 8.7 percent increase in traffic in October, which was a slowdown from September growth of 10.7 percent, but still the second strongest percentage growth among regions.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, however, volumes are slightly below where they were three months ago. This may indicate spill over from the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Capacity climbed 9.1 percent, and load factor slipped 0.3 percentage points to 82.6 percent.

African airlines' traffic grew 7.5 percent year-on-year in October, up from 3.6 percent in September. Conditions in the region's two largest economies - Nigeria and South Africa - are still diverging, with business confidence levels in Nigeria near a three-year high, while confidence levels in South Africa are consistent with falling economic activity.

Capacity rose 3.4 percent, and load factor jumped 2.7 percentage points to 70.9 percent.

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