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World passenger traffic in January 2019 recorded its highest growth since July 2018 but world freight traffic reported negative growth in January this year, its slowest pace in 12 months, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Moreover, in its latest Air Transport Monitor released April 11, ICAO said the top 15 airports reported growth in January 2019 in terms of passenger numbers, but nine of them recorded declines in freight traffic in the month year-on-year, the monitor said.

It said world passenger traffic grew by 6.5% year-on-year in January 2019, or 1.2 percentage points higher than the growth in the previous month.

“This was the highest growth recorded since July 2018, indicating a positive start of the year,” it said.

Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America posted the highest traffic growth in respective order. The Middle East picked up slightly, but remained as the slowest growing region. China posted the fastest growth in domestic traffic, followed by India and the Russian Federation.

International passenger traffic grew by 6.0% year-on-year in January 2019, which is 0.5 percentage point higher than the growth in the previous month. All regions accelerated in traffic growth except Europe and Latin America/Caribbean. Europe, however, remained as the strongest international market.

On the other hand, world freight traffic reported a negative growth of 1.8% year-on-year in January 2019, which is 1.3 percentage points lower than the growth in the previous month.

“After experiencing a third consecutive negative growth, freight traffic reached its slowest pace in twelve months,” said the report. “Freight traffic continues to be impacted by the apprehensions surrounding Brexit and the ongoing US-China trade tensions.”

All regions, except for Africa, North America and Latin America/Caribbean posted a decline in growth, and the other three regions posted negative growth. The weakest performance was reported by the Middle East, followed by Asia/Pacific. North America remained as the fastest growing region, followed by Africa, albeit with moderate growth.

The top 15 airports

In terms of passenger numbers, the top 15 airports reported growth of 3.9% year-on-year. All the top 15 airports posted year-on-year increases, except for Tokyo and Dubai with a decline of 1.5% and 1.2%, respectively. Beijing topped the list and grew at 5.8%. Shanghai reported the highest growth at 8.8%, followed by Guangzhou and Hong Kong at 8.6% and 6.2%, respectively.

In terms of freight tonnage, the top 15 airports reported a decline of 1.1% year-on-year. Nine out of the top 15 airports posted year-on-year decreases. The most significant decline was posted by Tokyo (-11.9%), followed by Shanghai (-7.1%). Hong Kong topped the list albeit with a decline of 4.0%. Guangzhou became the fastest growing airport with an 8.8% year-on-year increase.

In terms of revenue passenger-kilometers (RPK), the top 15 airline groups accounted for 46.2% of world total RPK in January 2019 and grew by 6.0% year-on-year. This growth was 0.5 percentage point lower than the world average on scheduled services. All of the top 15 airline groups posted year-on-year increases.

The report noted that growth of major airlines in Asia-Pacific in RPK terms continued to be solid. China Southern recorded the fastest growth at 16.5% and ranked one position up to fifth. Air China maintained its stance at ninth while China Eastern was up one position to 10th. Singapore Airlines reported the third highest growth at 10.4%, albeit dropping by one position to 14th.

Every month ICAO produces this Air Transport Monitor, a monthly snapshot and analysis of the economic and aviation indicators.

Photo: Jan Vasek

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