Middle East Airlines See Slower Passenger Growth in March: IATA

Published May 7th, 2017 - 02:39 GMT
Middle East carriers have recorded a passenger growth of 4.9 percent in March, against 9.5 percent in February. (Pexels)
Middle East carriers have recorded a passenger growth of 4.9 percent in March, against 9.5 percent in February. (Pexels)

Middle East carriers recorded a slower traffic growth of 4.9 per cent in March, against 9.5 per cent in February, as global travel demand surged 6.8 per cent, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

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The region's carriers recorded robust growth on routes to and from Asia and Europe as capacity increased 9.4 per cent and load factor dropped 3.1 percentage points to 73.1 per cent.

"Slower Middle East growth in March 2017, compared to a year ago, happened in January and February. This is related more to developments seen last year, while any impacts from the laptop ban will be visible from April results onward," IATA said.

Passenger traffic at Dubai International, the world's busiest airport for international passengers, rose by 7.4 per cent in the first quarter 2017 to 22.5 million from a year earlier.

Global passenger traffic results for March show that demand rose 6.8 per cent, compared to the same month a year ago. Capacity grew 6.1 per cent and load factor climbed by half a percentage point to 80.4 per cent, which was a record for the month.

The enforcemen of the ban on large electronic devices in the cabin on certain routes to the US and UK occurred too late in March to have an effect on traffic figures.

"Strong traffic demand worldwide continued throughout the first quarter, supported by a combination of lower fares and a broad-based upturn in global economic conditions. The price of air travel has fallen by around 10 per cent in real terms over the past year and that has contributed to record load factors.

We will have to wait another month to see the impact of the laptop ban on demand," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO.

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"The first quarter results are strong. But the last weeks have been challenging to the passenger business. The laptop ban - implemented with next to no notice with no dialogue and no coordination - is testing public confidence in how governments and industry work together to keep flying secure," said de Juniac.

He said even as rumors persist that the ban will be expanded to other airports and regions, IATA is calling on governments to work with the industry to find alternatives to keep flying secure without such great inconvenience to our passengers.

Concurrently, the recent incident at United Airlines has created calls for more heavy-handed government oversight.

"Everyone, including United Airlines, agrees there is no justification for what happened to passenger Dr. David Dao. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized repeatedly and is taking steps to ensure there is never a repeat," noted de Juniac.

European carriers saw March traffic climb 5.7 per cent over March 2016. Asia-Pacific airlines' traffic jumped 9.1 per cent in March, compared to the year-ago period. North American airlines posted a 2.7 per cent traffic rise in March compared to the year-ago period. Latin American airlines had a 9.7 per cent increase in March traffic, which was the strongest among the regions. African airlines continued to enjoy good demand too, with traffic up 6 per cent year-on-year.  

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Domestic demand rose 7.6 per cent in March. This was driven primarily by double-digit traffic increases in China, India and Russia, supported by strong single-digit growth in Japan. Domestic capacity climbed 6.1 per cent, and load factor lifted 1.2 percentage points to 83.2 per cent. 

By Issac John

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