Global air traffic growth hits five-year high

Global demand for air travel increased almost 10% in January 2017, as the Lunar New Year holidays in Asia stimulated traffic.

According to the latest data from IATA, the year-on-year growth of 9.6% was the strongest increase in more than five years. This demand growth outpaced an 8.0% expansion of seat capacity, and the world’s average load factor – or the percentage of seats filled per aircraft – climbed to 80.2%.

“2017 is off to a very strong start, with demand at levels not seen since 2011. This is supported by the upturn in the global economic cycle and a return to a more normal environment after the terrorism and political ‘shock’ events seen in early 2016,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general & CEO.

The world's airlines filled more than 80% of their seats in January 2017
The world’s airlines filled more than 80% of their seats in January 2017

Reflecting the influence of Lunar New Year, airlines in the Asia Pacific region achieved a 10.9% increase in passenger traffic on international routes. Domestic traffic in China surged 23.3% – the strongest monthly growth since June 2010.

Middle Eastern carriers achieved growth of 14.4% in January 2016, while European airlines experience an 8.3% jump in demand. And India’s domestic aviation boom continued into 2017, with January traffic surging 26.6%.

In contrast, North American airlines had the slowest demand growth, with traffic rising just 3.2% in January 2017, and traffic within in the US – the world’s largest domestic market – increasing 3.5%. And in a remark seemingly aimed at the Trump administration, de Juniac urged the world’s governments not to implement policies that restrict travel.

“Aviation is the business of freedom. Air travel liberates people to lead better lives and creates greater economic opportunity for all by bringing people closer to trade and markets. Governments have a responsibility to secure their borders. They must also preserve the enormous economic and social benefits provided by borders that are open to trade and travel,” de Juniac commented.

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