Growth in passenger demand slowest in the Middle East but Africa soars

Published: 9 February 2020 - 4:56 a.m.

Passenger demand in the Middle East grew at a slower rate than any other region in the world last year while African airlines bucked the global trend in what was a difficult year for air travel.

New data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that passenger demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers) among Middle East airlines increased 2.6% last year, the slowest pace of expansion among all regions and down from 4.9% growth in 2018.

But a late surge saw demand begin to recover in the fourth quarter and the monthly growth of 6.4% in December led all regions. Annual capacity was flat, growing just 0.1%, and load factor surged 1.8 percentage points to 76.3%.

African airlines saw greater growth in demand than any other region at a 5% increase (down from 6.3% growth in 2018).

Capacity rose 4.5% as airlines in the region benefitted from a generally supportive economic backdrop as well as increases in air transport connectivity.

Global demand rose by 4.2% in 2019 compared to 7.3% in the previous year.

It marked the first year since the global financial crisis in 2009 with passenger demand below the long-term trend of around 5.5% annual growth.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO, said that airlines “did well” to maintain steady growth last year “in the face of a number of challenges”.

“A softer economic backdrop, weak global trade activity, and political and geopolitical tensions took their toll on demand,” he said.

“Astute capacity management, and the effects of the 737 MAX grounding, contributed to another record load factor, helping the industry to manage through weaker demand and improving environmental performance.”

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