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March 2018 IATA Air Passenger Market Analysis
Air passenger growth completes a strong first quarter of 2018

RPK growth posts its fastest pace in 12 months…
Industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) increased by 9.5% year-on-year in March – the fastest pace since March 2017 and well above the five-year average rate (6.8%). Overall, global RPKs grew by 7.2% in year-on-year terms during the first quarter of 2018 – broadly in line with the pace seen in the same period a year ago.

…driven by a supportive economic backdrop

Robust growth in air travel has continued to be supported by the comparatively strong global economic backdrop. Recall that the composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) – a measure of global business confidence that has proved to be a useful leading indicator of air passenger demand growth in the past – reached a 3½ year high in February. A reading around this level has usually been consistent in the past with year-on-year RPK growth of around 8%. Against this backdrop, it is no surprise to have seen that global passenger volumes have trended upwards strongly in SA terms in recent months, rising at an annualized rate in the region of 7-9% since late-2017. 

Strong RPK growth for African airlines
International RPKs flown by carriers based in Africa grew by 11.2% year-on-year in March – more than twice the five-year average pace (4.8%).  The region’s airlines are seeing strong growth on the segments to/from Europe and Asia, and will be helped by ongoing signs of improvement in the region’s largest economies: business confidence in Nigeria has risen sharply over the past 12-18 months, helped by higher oil prices, while business confidence in South Africa is once again consistent with rising economic activity.  

Highlights of the March 2018 Air Passenger Market Analysis

  • Global revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) grew by 9.5% year-on-year in March – the fastest pace in 12 months.
  • Current robust RPK growth rates are being helped by the strength of global economic conditions. That said, we expect reduced stimulus from lower airfares to translate into a moderate slowing in full-year RPK growth this year.
  • Having set a record high for the month of February, the industry-wide load factor posted another record high in March (82.4%). Once again, all regions except the Middle East posted record highs for the month.
  • Year-on-year growth in domestic India RPKs stayed in double-digit territory for the 43rd consecutive month, while Latin American airlines once again posted the fastest international RPK growth of all regions. Download the full document here. 

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