On February 2, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced full-year global passenger traffic results for 2016 showing demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 6.3% compared to 2015 (or 6.0% if adjusted for the leap year). IATA said this strong performance was well ahead of the ten-year average annual growth rate of 5.5%. Capacity rose 6.2% (unadjusted) compared to 2015, pushing the load factor up 0.1% points to a record full-year average high of 80.5%.
A particularly strong performance was reported for December with an 8.8% rise in demand outstripping 6.6% capacity growth.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO commented: “Air travel was a good news story in 2016. Connectivity increased with the establishment of more than 700 new routes. And a $44 fall in average return fares helped to make air travel even more accessible. As a result, a record 3.7 billion passengers flew safely to their destination. Demand for air travel is still expanding. The challenge for governments is to work with the industry to meet that demand with infrastructure that can accommodate the growth, regulation that facilitates growth and taxes that don’t choke growth. If we can achieve that, there is plenty of potential for a safe, secure and sustainable aviation industry to create more jobs and increase prosperity.”
International passenger markets
IATA’s statistics show that international passenger traffic rose 6.7% in 2016 compared to 2015. Capacity was up by 6.9% and load factor fell 0.2 percentage points to 79.6%. All regions recorded year-over-year increases in demand.
Domestic air travel
Domestic air travel rose 5.7% in 2016. Capacity rose 5.1% and load factor was 82.2%, up 0.5 percentage points over 2015. All major markets except Brazil showed growth, but India and China, with RPK expansion of 23.3% and 11.7% respectively, were the stand-out performers. These markets have been underpinned by additional routes and increasing flight frequencies, with the latter looking set to continue in 2017. IATA said Brazil’s -5.5% decline in domestic air travel reflected the country’s economic situation. Its carriers did, however, succeed in improving the load factor to 80.1%, the highest since IATA began tracking this metric in 1990.
Outlining the underlining message of the annual results Mr de Juniac concluded: “Our freedom to connect through air travel drives prosperity and enriches societies. That freedom can only be given its fullest expression when governments facilitate the movement of people and goods. Security and competitiveness, of course, must always be top of mind for governments. And the four billion people who will travel by air this year are an opportunity to build an even better world through the positive impacts of globalisation — mutual understanding, innovation and business opportunities among them. Aviation is the business of freedom. And we must defend its social and economic benefits from barriers to travel and protectionist agendas.”