The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released figures showing a more than seven-per-cent rise in international air travel in April compared with 2011, outstripping the 4.3-per-cent increase in overall capacity. The increase was above the 20-year trend, with load factors rising by 2.3 percentage points to 79.3 per cent. European airline operators recorded an increase in passenger numbers of 5.9 per cent which, while lower than the 8.7-per-cent growth recorded in March, was higher than the capacity increase (3.4 per cent), meaning that four out of five airline seats were filled. The greatest growth – 16 per cent year-on-year – was shown by Middle East airlines, although this was slightly less than the 20-per-cent rise recorded in March, a distortion attributed to the events of the Arab Spring and their repercussions. “Despite continuing economic weakness in some parts of the world, demand for air travel continues to grow,” said the IATA, although it advised caution, adding: “While this is a relatively strong performance compared to previous-year levels, since the beginning of the year there has been a declining trend.” April, for example, saw a 0.3-per-cent contraction in traffic compared with March, despite the fact that the Easter holiday period fell in mid-April.
“The growth in passenger markets is encouraging,” said Tony Tyler, director general of the IATA, “but it comes against an environment of continuing high oil prices and growing economic uncertainty. So translating the stronger demand into profits will be difficult.”