Political tensions and trade wars continue to have a significant impact on air transport.


Alexandre de Juniac has said the likelihood of an upturn in passenger demand growth looks “difficult” to envisage.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO made the comments following the publication of the latest passenger traffic figures for September.

Passenger demand—measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKS)—grew by 3.8% year-on-year in September, unchanged from that of August’s performance.

“September marked the eighth consecutive month of below average demand growth,” said de Juniac. 

At times like these, governments should recognize the power of aviation connectivity to ignite the economy and drive job creation

“Given the environment of declining world trade activity and tariff wars, rising political and geopolitical tensions and a slowing global economy, it is difficult to see the trend reversing in the near term.”

“At times like these, governments should recognize the power of aviation connectivity to ignite the economy and drive job creation. Instead, too many governments are fixated on aviation as the goose that lays the golden eggs of taxes and fees. 

“It’s the wrong approach. Governments should harness its power to drive GDP growth, not tie it down through heavy and punitive tax and regulatory regimes.”

However, there are positives for airlines. Capacity—available seat kilometers (ASKs)—increased by 3.3% and load factor rose to 81.9%, a September record.

Although political tensions and trade wars continue to impact air transport, passenger demand is on a steady but moderate upward trend.

In the international markets, passenger demand rose 3.0% compared to September 2018. Although this was a decline on August’s figures, all regions recorded an increase in demand as capacity climbed 2.6% and load factor increased to 81.6%.

See the breakdown by region below:

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw September traffic increase 3.6% compared to the year-ago period, an increase over the 3.3% annual growth recorded in August. Capacity rose 5.0% and load factor slid 1.1 percentage points to 78.2%.
  • European carriers experienced a 2.9% rise in September traffic, the region’s weakest performance this year and a decline from the 4.2% year-over-year rise recorded in August. Capacity rose 2.5%, and load factor climbed 0.3 percentage point to 86.9%, which was the highest among regions.
  • Middle Eastern airlines posted a 1.8% traffic increase in September, which was a slowdown from a 2.9% rise in August. Capacity was up just 0.2%, with load factor climbing 1.2 percentage points to 75.2%.
  • North American carriers’ international demand climbed 4.3% compared to September 2018, well up from the 2.9% growth recorded in August and the strongest performance among the regions. Capacity rose 1.6%, and load factor accelerated 2.2 percentage points to 83.0%.
  • Latin American airlines had a 1.2% demand increase in September compared to a year ago, which was down from 2.3% growth in August. Capacity fell 1.6% and load factor surged 2.3 percentage points to 82.5%.
  • African airlines’ traffic climbed 0.9% in September, a steep fall-off from the 4.1% growth recorded in August. Capacity rose 2.5%, however, and load factor dipped 1.1 percentage points to 71.7%.