Global air passenger demand grew by 5.2 per cent last year compared with 2012, the International Air Transport Association has reported. In the Asia-Pacific region, the growth figure was 7.1 per cent.
The 2013 performance aligns with the average annual growth rate of the past 30 years. Capacity rose 4.8 per cent and load factor averaged 79.5 per cent, up 0.4 percentage point over 2012, IATA said.
Demand in international markets (5.4 per cent) expanded at a slightly faster rate than domestic travel (4.9 per cent).
The strongest overall growth (domestic and international combined) was recorded by carriers in the Middle East (11.4 per cent) followed by Asia-Pacific (7.1 per cent), Latin America (6.3 per cent) and Africa (5.2 per cent). The slowest growth was in the developed markets of North America (2.3 per cent) and Europe (3.8 per cent).
“We saw healthy demand growth in 2013 despite the very difficult economic environment,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director-general and chief executive officer. “There was a clear improvement trend over the course of the year, which bodes well for 2014.
“Last year’s demand performance demonstrates the essential and growing role that aviation-enabled connectivity plays in our world. And with system-wide load factors at 79.5 per cent, it is also clear that airlines are continuing to drive efficiencies to an ever-higher level,” he said.
International passenger demand grew by 5.4 per cent last year, with all regions reporting growth.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic rose 5.3 per cent in 2013, the highest increase among the three major regions and slightly above 2012 annual growth of 5.2 per cent. After a slow start, carriers in the region saw a pick-up in demand in the third quarter, supported by stronger performance of major economies such as China and Japan. Capacity expansion of 5.2 per cent meant load factor was virtually flat at 77.7 per cent.
European carriers saw traffic rise 3.8 per cent, a slowdown compared with annual growth of 5.3 per cent in 2012. Capacity rose 2.8 per cent and load factor was 81 per cent, second-highest among the regions and a 0.5-percentage-point rise over 2012. Modest economic improvements in the euro zone since the second quarter and rising consumer and business confidence are providing a stronger demand base for international travel, and after weakness in previous months, job losses in the euro zone stabilised in December.
North American carriers reported the slowest passenger growth of any region at 3.0 per cent compared with 2012 but an improvement over 2012 growth of 1.3 per cent. With capacity up just 2.2 per cent, load factor rose 0.8 percentage point to 82.8 per cent, the highest for any region. The economy is showing some positive signs: Employment growth has picked up, as has consumer spending.
Middle East airlines recorded the strongest increase in passenger traffic in 2013, a rise of 12.1 per cent compared, but below the 15.4-per-cent growth recorded in 2012. Carriers in the region have benefited from the continued strength of regional economies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and solid growth in business-related premium travel, particularly to developing markets such as Africa. However, capacity grew faster at 12.8 per cent and load factor declined slightly by 0.1 percentage point to 77.3 per cent from 77.4 per cent in 2012.
Latin American carriers posted an 8.1-per-cent rise in demand last year, down slightly from the 8.4-per-cent rise in 2012. This was the second-strongest performance after the Middle East and was supported by the healthy expansion of such economies as Colombia, Peru and Chile. Capacity expanded 7.4 per cent year on year, causing load factor to climb to 79.2 per cent, up 1.3 percentage points.
African airlines’ demand rose 5.5 per cent, slightly above the global average but below 2012 growth of 7.5 per cent. Capacity expansion of 5.2 per cent meant load factor rose 1.9 percentage points to 69 per cent, the lowest among the regions. Overall, the demand environment is strong, with robust economic growth of local economies and continued development of internationally trading industries.
But some parts of Africa have shown weakness, including South Africa, which recently experienced a slowdown in its economy, with a corresponding impact on the demand base for international air travel.