Global passenger and freight traffic rose at a slower pace in September than the trend seen in recent months, according to the latest IATA figures.

The association attributes the slower growth in passenger traffic to factors including a "reduced demand boost from lower airfares due to rising airline cost pressures", particularly from fuel.

Data from energy information provider ICIS, analysed by FlightGlobal, shows jet global jet kerosene prices were some 28% higher year-on-year in September, driven by rising crude oil prices.

Heightened uncertainties around trade policies and protectionist agendas in some countries were also cited as factors in the slowing traffic growth, alongside the impact of hurricanes and typhoons, particularly in Japan, where weather conditions forced the closure of Kansai International airport for several days during the month.

The global RPK growth was 5.5% year-on-year in September – compared with a 6.4% increase recorded in August – and was outpaced by a 5.8% rise in capacity, as measured in ASKs.

Consequently global passenger load factors across international and domestic flights slipped for the first time in eight months, down 0.3 percentage points year-on-year at 81.4%.

Carriers in Latin America, North America and the Middle East all saw higher passenger traffic lag capacity growth in the month.


In terms of RPKs, North American carriers saw growth of 5.6%, outpacing the year-to-date average of 5.1%, underpinned by "strong momentum in the US economy".

The story was also relatively positive among Latin American airlines, which were aided by a strong performance on international services and saw a 6.3% increase in overall RPKs, outpacing the year-to-date average by 0.2 percentage points.

In Europe, however, IATA notes the rise in seasonally adjusted demand for international flights has slowed considerably since early 2018. Traffic in the region rose 5.4%, but that was 0.7 percentage points below the year-to-date average.

RPK growth among Asia-Pacific carriers meanwhile slowed to 6.7% for the month, compared with a year-to-date average of 9.2%. IATA states, however, that "the upward trend in passenger traffic remains very strong, supported by structural changes, including ongoing rises in living standards in the region, as well as network changes that translate into time savings and ultimately stimulate demand".

Nevertheless, IATA notes traffic growth lagged year-to-date levels in the Australian, Chinese and Japanese domestic markets.

The Middle East was behind the other regions for growth in RPKs, recording an increase of 1.4% year-on-year – a four-month low – as domestic services in particular weighed on the overall figure. The airline association notes the impact of "volatility" in Middle East markets on year-on-year figures, caused by factors such last year's electronics restrictions on certain flights and a proposed travel ban by the USA.


Meanwhile, global air freight markets saw demand measured in FTKs rise 2% in September year-on-year. This pace of growth was largely in line with the previous month’s but was less than half the five-year average growth rate of 5.1%.

IATA cites a contraction in manufacturing firms’ export order books – in all of the world’s major exporting nations with the exception of the USA – as a key factor in what it describes as "weak growth". It notes that the contraction in orders is the first such occurrence since June 2017.

Longer supplier delivery times are also being reported by manufacturers in most of Asia and Europe, IATA states. "This typically means that they have less need for the speed afforded by air freight," it says.

The association adds, however, that growth is being supported by "a robust global investment environment and the expansion of international e-commerce".

Capacity measured in ATKs was up 3.2% during the month – the seventh month in a row where capacity growth has outpaced that of demand.

"Yields, however, appear to be holding up," IATA says.

Source: Cirium Dashboard