Global airline passenger demand grew 4.2% in 2019, newly released data from IATA shows, but this was below a long-term growth rate of around 5.5%.

It was the weakest reading for revenue passenger-kilometre growth since 2009, and a decline from 7.3% in 2018. Nonetheless, it significantly outpaced the rise in global GDP.

“Airlines did well to maintain steady growth last year in the face of a number of challenges,” states IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac. “A softer economic backdrop, weak global trade activity, and political and geopolitical tensions took their toll on demand.”

He adds: “Astute capacity management, and the effects of the 737 Max grounding, contributed to another record load factor, helping the industry to manage through weaker demand and improving environmental performance.”

Capacity was increased 3.4% last year, while load factor rose 0.7% to a record high of 82.6%.

Africa and Asia-Pacific saw the greatest traffic increases, at 4.9% and 4.8% respectively, while Europe and Latin America both had growth rates of 4.2% and North America’s was 4.1%. The Middle East saw growth of just 2.4%.

International passenger traffic increased 4.1%, while the domestic figure was up 4.5%.