January’s statistics show the fastest year-on-year growth in six months as demand, capacity and load factor rise.

Passenger numbers

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed a “positive” start to the year for airlines following the publication of the latest passenger traffic data.

Global passenger traffic—measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs)—rose 6.5% year-on-year in January, the fastest growth in six months.

Capacity—measured in available seat kilometers—increased by 6.4%, edging load factor up 0.1 percentage point to 79.6%.

2019 has started on a positive note, with healthy passenger demand in line with the 10-year trend line

Commenting on the figures, IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: “2019 has started on a positive note, with healthy passenger demand in line with the 10-year trend line. 

“However, market signals are mixed, with indications of weakening business confidence in developed economies and a more nuanced picture across the developing world.”

International passenger demand grew 6.0% compared to January 2018, up 0.7% from December’s year-on-year figure of 5.3%, as Europe led the way for a fourth consecutive month.

All regions recorded demand growth, with capacity increasing 5.8% and load factor climbing 0.2 percentage point to 79.8%.

In the domestic markets, traffic rose 7.3% overall year-on-year. This was the fastest growth since August and an increase on the 5.6% growth posted in December, with all markets showing growth. China, India and Russia posted double-digit annual increases.

Domestic capacity grew 7.5%, but load factor fell 0.1 percentage point to 79.3%.

See the breakdown by international region below:

  • European carriers' international traffic climbed 7.7% in January compared to the year-ago period, down from an 8.6% annual increase in December. Capacity rose 8.8% and load factor fell 0.9 percentage point to 80.3%.
  • Asia-Pacific carriers recorded a demand increase of 7.1% compared to January 2018, solidly above the 5.0% growth in December. Capacity rose 5.1%, and load factor surged 1.5 percentage points to 81.7%.
  • Middle East carriers had the weakest growth, with demand up just 1.5% compared to January 2018. Capacity climbed 3.2% and load factor fell 1.3 percentage points to 75.6%.
  • North American airlines experienced a 4.7% traffic rise over a year ago, improved from a 3.7% annual rise the month before, while capacity climbed 3.5% and load factor increased 1.0 percentage point to 80.6%.
  • Latin American airlines' traffic climbed 5.8% in January compared to January 2018. Capacity rose 6.7%, however, and load factor slipped 0.7 percentage point to 82.8%, which still was the highest among the regions.
  • African airlines saw January traffic rise 5.1%, up from 3.8% in December. The region's capacity rose 2.9%, and load factor jumped 1.5 percentage points to 70.9%.