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Air Travel Hits New Highs

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© Getty Images PHOTO: World flight map. (photo courtesy of ChrisGorgio / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

By Monica Poling, TravelPulse

Have you been dreaming of a vacation in a land far, far away?

You aren’t alone. What’s more, people are no longer just dreaming about their getaways, they’re actually taking them.

Global air travel hit a new high in March 2018, with research showing that overall passenger traffic grew by 9.5 percent from February to March, marking the fastest growth rate in 12 months.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger capacity also grew by 6.4 percent, as did load factors, which climbed 2.3 percentage points to 82.4 percent for the month, a new record.

"Demand for air travel remains strong, supported by the comparatively healthy economic backdrop and business confidence levels,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO. “But rising cost inputs—particularly fuel prices—suggest that any demand boosts from lower fares will moderate going into the second quarter,"

International Passenger Markets

International travel continues to enjoy a dizzying growth rate.

In March, total international passenger traffic increased 10.6 percent compared to March 2017, while capacity increased 6.6 percent and load factors improved 2.9 percentage points to 81.5 percent.

Latin American airlines posted the biggest growth rate, with an 11.8 percent increase in March traffic. In part, says IATA, that growth is being driven by economic recovery in Brazil, as well as an overall after the difficult hurricane season in the third quarter of last year,

In second place, traffic on Asia-Pacific airlines increased 11.6 percent in March, largely due to strong regional economic growth and ongoing increase in the number of airport-pair options for travelers.

African airlines also continue to see strong demand, posting an 11.2 percent increase in March, a number that is more than twice the five-year average pace of 4.8%. Economic recovery in Nigeria and South Africa and new routes to and from Europe and Asia are helping fuel the demand.

Middle East carriers' saw traffic grow by 10.7 percent last month, nearly erasing the more dismal 4.1 percent year-over-year increase recorded the previous month. This increase is being attributed to a “stabilization” on Middle East to North America routes, said IATA, after disruptions caused by the ban on large portable electronic devices, and the confusion arising from travel restrictions to the US. Middle East carriers also have seen a healthy growth in travel to and from Asia.

Airlines throughout Europe saw an increase of 9.8 percent total traffic, up from the 6.9 percent annual growth rate posted in February. Business confidence and new nonstop airport-pairs are helping fuel the demand.

In North America, airlines saw a growth rate in traffic of 9.5 percent traffic rise in March compared to the year-ago period. Similar to African carriers, that number considerably outpaced the 5-year average growth rate of 3.6 percent. A robust economy is contributing to the growth, as is a weakening dollar, which is attracting record levels of inbound visitors.

Domestic Travel Markets

Across all markets, demand for domestic travel is also growing, although at 7.8 percent, the demand has decelerated somewhat from the numbers posted in February. The highest growth rates were seen in China, where domestic traffic grew by 15 percent.

In the United States, the domestic growth rate slowed to 4.7 percent (as compared to the 6.7 percent year-over-year growth rate in February.) These numbers according to IATA, were expected and say more about traffic trends last year than they do about any possible economic weakening in the United States.

The growth in air travel supports similar research from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which found that global tourism is booming. According to the WTTC, global travel and tourism numbers grew by 4.7 percent last year, some 50 percent faster than the global economy as a whole.

According to IATA, air travel numbers are expected to nearly double by 2036.

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