GENEVA — In light of the U.S. immigrant ban that has sparked controversy and protests across the country, IATA, in its full-year global passenger traffic report, says that “aviation is the business of freedom” and that its social and economic benefits must be defended “from barriers to travel and protectionist agendas.”
According to the report, air travel demand had a strong year in 2016, closing out the year on a high note with an 8.8% increase in December. Demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs) rose 6.3% compared to 2015, well ahead of the 10-year average annual growth rate of 5.5%. Capacity also rose 6.2% compared to 2015, pushing the load factor up to a record full-year average high of 80.5%.
“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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “As a result, a record 3.7 billion passengers flew safely to their destination. Demand for air travel is still expanding.”
De Juniac also added: “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.”
International passenger traffic rose 6.7% in 2016 compared to 2015, with all regions recording year-over-year increases in demand. Middle East carriers had the strongest regional annual traffic growth for the fifth year in a row, with RPKs expanding 11.8%. Asia Pacific carriers came in a close second with a demand increase of 8.3% compared to 2015.
North American airlines had a good year as well, seeing demand rise 2.6% in 2016. Most of the growth occurred in the second quarter, and traffic was strongest on Pacific routes. In contrast, North Atlantic has been fairly flat. Capacity rose 3.3%, reducing the load factor for 0.5 percentage points to 81.3%.
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, with India and China being the standout performers (RPK expansion of 23.3% and 11.7%, respectively).