The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for November 2019 showing that demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) rose 3.3 percent compared to the same month in 2018. This was unchanged from October’s result and below the long-term trend. Capacity (available seat kilometres or ASKs) increased by 1.8 percent, and load factor climbed 1.1 percentage points to 81.1 percent, which was a record for any November. All regions saw annual increases in traffic. “November’s moderate result reflects the continuing influence of slower economic activity, geopolitical tensions and other disruptions, including strikes in Europe. On the plus side, positive developments in the US-China trade talks, in tandem with signs of improving business confidence, could support an uptick in travel demand. In the meantime, continued modest capacity growth is helping to maximise asset efficiency,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
International Passenger Markets
November international passenger demand rose 3.1 percent, compared to November 2018, which was a marginal increase from the 3 percent year-over-year growth achieved in October. All regions recorded traffic increases, except for Latin America. Capacity climbed 0.7 percent, and load factor increased 1.8 percentage points to 80.1 percent.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw November traffic increase 3.9 percent compared to the 2018 period, a slight decline compared to the 4.2 percent annual growth recorded in October. Capacity rose 2.8 percent and load factor rose 0.8 percentage point to 79.9 percent. Disruptions in Hong Kong, slowing demand in India and China and less supportive business confidence in several key economies are among the contributing factors.
European carriers experienced a 1.2 percent increase in November traffic, down from 1.6 percent growth in October and the weakest outcome since early 2013. Industrial actions (strikes) disrupted operations for a number of airlines during the month, contributing to the demand slowdown. Capacity dropped 1.1 percent and load factor rose 1.8 percentage points to 83.8 percent.
Middle Eastern airlines posted a 7.4 percent traffic increase in November, up from a 5.6 percent rise in October. Capacity was flat, and load factor soared 5.0 percentage points to 73.2 percent. The strong performance was driven by robust demand on to/from Asia and Europe markets.
North American carriers’ international demand climbed 2.3 percent compared to November 2018, down from the 3.6 percent growth recorded in October. Despite a slowing in economic activity, fundamentals remain generally sound for the region, although the rise in geopolitical tensions may impact international demand going forward. Capacity rose 1.6 percent, and load factor accelerated 0.6 percentage point to 81.2 percent.
Latin American airlines had a 0.3 percent traffic decline in November compared to a year ago, in line with October’s decline. Capacity slipped 1.8 percent and load factor increased 1.3 percentage points to 82.1 percent. Economic headwinds and/or social unrest in a number of countries in the region contributed to the lowered result.
African airlines’ traffic climbed 4.9 percent in November, up from 2.3 percent growth recorded in October. Challenges in the South Africa market have been more than offset by strong performance elsewhere in the region. Capacity rose 2.8 percent, and load factor climbed 1.4 percentage points to 70.3 percent.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Demand for domestic travel climbed 3.5 percent in November compared to November 2018, which was a marginal decline from 3.7 percent annual growth recorded in October. Capacity rose 3.8 percent and load factor slipped 0.2 percentage point to 82.8 percent.
Indian airlines experienced a return to double-digit growth for the first time since January 2019, as traffic rose 11.3 percent compared to November 2018. However, economic growth in the third quarter was the weakest in around six years amid a broad-based slowdown that is affecting many sectors of the economy. This will present a more challenging environment for the industry going forward.
Japan’s airlines saw domestic traffic climb 3.7 percent in November, more than double the 1.8 percent increase recorded in October. While growth has been volatile over the past six months or so, the bigger picture is that seasonally-adjusted volumes are trending modestly upward.