Global air passenger traffic continues to rise, outpacing capacity

Global air passenger demand continues to rise and outpace increasing capacity, according to airline association Iata’s latest air traffic figures.

Iata recorded a 10.7% increase in global air traffic year on year in May ahead of an 8.5% increase in capacity.

International air traffic rose by more, up by 14.6% year on year, but closer to the worldwide increase in capacity of 14.1%.

Airlines in all regions saw air traffic growth rates exceed 8% year on year in May, but Europe saw growth of 11.7% in international traffic, up from 10.5% in April. International flight capacity in Europe was up 11.3% on May 2023.

Iata director general Willie Walsh noted: “Strong demand for travel continues [and] airlines filled 83.4% of their seats [in May], a record for the month.”

He said ticket sales for early peak-season travel suggest “the growth trend shows no signs of abating”.

However, Walsh warned that air navigation service providers (ANSPs or air traffic control) in Europe and the US face “unresolved challenges”.

He insisted: “Airlines are doing everything they can to ensure smooth journeys for travellers over the peak northern summer period. But our expectations are already being tested.

“With 5.2 million minutes of air traffic control delays racked up in Europe even before the peak season begins, it’s clear that Europe’s ANSPs have unresolved challenges, and challenges persist in the US too.”

Walsh pointed out “airlines are accountable to their customers” and said: “ANSPs must be as well. We need them to do their job efficiently.”

Asia-Pacific airlines enjoyed a 27% increase in demand year on year, with capacity up 26% in the region following a later recovery from the Covid pandemic than most of the world.

Middle Eastern airlines saw a 9.7% rise in passenger traffic, also ahead of a capacity increase of 9%.

However, carriers in North America reported an 8.1% increase in demand year on year against a capacity increase of 9.7%, suggesting the aviation market which recovered earliest and most quickly from the pandemic may have reached its growth limits.

Latin American airlines saw a 15.9% increase in demand in May, while capacity climbed 14.3% year on year, and Africa’s airlines reported a 14.1% increase in passenger traffic against an 8.2% rise in capacity.

Iata measures demand, or air passenger traffic, in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) – i.e. the distance flown by paying passengers – and capacity by available seat kilometres (ASKs).

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