The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today released traffic data for April showing that total passenger demand rose 6.1% year-over-year, with international traffic up 7.4% and domestic traffic up 3.9%. Freight traffic slowed by a total of -4.2% in April, with a drop of -4.5% in international freight and -2.7% in domestic freight. The total passenger demand in April is above the 20-year trend, a good sign for a troubled industry.
Capacity grew by just 3.8% in April, which led a record high load factor for the month of 79.3%. International passenger traffic grew 16% in the Middle East, 9.3% in Asia-Pacific, 9% in Latin America, and 7% in Africa. European traffic grew by 5.9% and North American traffic rose by just 1.6%.
In domestic travel, Japan posted growth of 27.9% year-over-year, though last year’s traffic number was severely affected by the tsunami and earthquake. In the US, domestic traffic grew by just 1%, and capacity grew by even less, 0.7%. US domestic load factors were the highest among all countries, at 83.8%.
The IATA’s director general said:
The growth in passenger markets is encouraging. 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.
US airlines stocks have performed well since the beginning of 2012, with US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE: LCC) up the most at 149%, followed by Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) up 46%, United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) up 27%, Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) up 4%, and JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU) down -9%. Even bankrupt American Airlines has turned a corner and a potential merger with US Airways would create one of the world’s largest carriers.
The IATA announcement is available here.