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IATA: March passenger demand growth slows on later Easter holiday

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Demand measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose 3.1 per cent in March compared to the same month a year ago, which was the slowest pace for any month in nine years, according to figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA said this largely was owing to the timing of the Easter holiday, which fell nearly a month later than in 2018.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the underlying growth rate has been relatively steady since October 2018 at a 4.1 per cent annualised pace. Capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) for the month of March grew 4.2 per cent and load factor dropped 0.9 percentage point to 81.7 per cent. 

“While traffic growth slowed considerably in March, we do not see the month as a bellwether for the rest of 2019. Nevertheless, the economic backdrop has become somewhat less favorable, with the IMF having recently revised its GDP outlook downward for a fourth time in the past year,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

March international passenger demand rose just 2.5 per cent compared to March 2018, which was down from 4.5 per cent year-over-year growth recorded in February and almost five percentage points below its five-year average pace. All regions showed growth with the exception of the Middle East. Total capacity climbed four per cent, and load factor fell 1.2 percentage points to 80.8 per cent.

Domestic demand rose 4.1 per cent in March, which was a deceleration from 6.2 per cent growth recorded in February that was driven largely by developments in China and India. Domestic capacity climbed 4.5 per cent, and load factor dipped 0.3 percentage point to 83.4 per cent.