(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Middle East airlines continued to dominate in the skies as they recorded its strongest year-over-year traffic growth in October on growing demand in business and leisure travel, according to the latest report from the International Air Transport Association, or Iata.
The region's carriers stayed ahead of its global peers with a 14 per cent growth, and are set to contribute a "significant share" in carrying three billion passengers in the airline industry in a year for the first time in 2013.
The Iata said airlines in the region have benefitted from strong demand for business-related premium travel, particularly to developing markets such as Africa.
"Solid performance of key economies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE has also supported strong expansion in business and leisure travel," the Iata report said.
The association, which represents 240 airlines comprising 84 per cent of global air traffic, said Middle East airlines' load factor stayed flat compared to the year ago period at 75.5 per cent.
The Iata says that airlines in the Middle East have benefitted from strong demand for business-related premium travel, particularly to developing markets such as Africa. - AFP
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, said the Iata's traffic statistics verify the long-term robustness of the GCC air travel market and certainly dispels the myth that the region is in any sort of bubble that could burst.
"Let's not forget that this 14 per cent traffic rise in the region was before the November Dubai Airshow too, so it demonstrates the traveller appeal to connect in the Middle East as a preference to Asia or other regions when flying between the two hemispheres," Ahmad told Khaleej Times.
"It is no surprise that the UAE has led the way in this continued growth, but that greater demand being realised in neighbouring Saudi Arabia is also showing through in numbers," he said.
"And with Qatar Airways starting its Saudi-based Al Maha Airways next year, there is certainly more impetus for the Saudi bloc to grow even faster given the large demand pool there that is currently untapped, particularly for the 20-35 year old age groups," he added.
African airlines' traffic climbed 3.5 per cent compared to October 2012, the slowest rate of growth for any region and well below year-to-date expansion of 6.4 per cent. Capacity rose 8.7 per cent, resulting in a 3.3 percentage point drop in load factor to 66.1 per cent, the lowest load factor for any region. Intense competition on major trunk routes and market volatility may have affected volumes in October.
Int'l passenger markets
The association said global passenger traffic results for October showing a moderate acceleration of the robust demand trend of the last few months. Total revenue passenger kilometers rose 6.6 per cent compared to October 2012, an improvement over the September increase of 5.2 per cent. A capacity increase of 6.5 per cent meant that load factor was virtually flat at 78.9 per cent.
"October traffic results reinforce expectations for a strong fourth quarter traffic performance in line with rising business confidence and better economic performance in the major advanced economies," Tony Tyler, the Iata's director-general and chief executive, said in a statement to Khaleej Times.
October international passenger demand was up 6.9 per cent compared to the year-ago period with airlines in all regions recording growth. Capacity rose 6.6 per cent and load factor climbed 0.2 percentage points to 78.4 per cent.
"In 2013, the airline industry will carry more than three billion passengers in a year for the first time. And on January 1, 2014, we will celebrate a century of scheduled commercial aviation. These twin landmarks provide an opportunity to reflect on the enormous contribution aviation makes to all of our lives."
"That contribution comes not from the fees and taxes with which governments continue to burden aviation and air travellers, but rather from the ability to bring people together, connect people to markets and to create opportunities for greater understanding among cultures," said Tyler.
Moreover, Asia-Pacific carriers also continued their solid performance of recent months with a 7.8 per cent rise in October compared to October 2012, the strongest performance among the three biggest regions.
European carriers' international traffic climbed 5.4 per cent in October compared to the year-ago period, on a 4.6 per cent rise in capacity, pushing load factor up 0.6 percentage points to 81 per cent.
Furthermore, North American airlines saw demand rise 3.6 per cent compared to October last year, while Latin American airlines saw demand climb 8.3 per cent in October, buoyed by solid trade growth and business related travel.
"Economic expansion in Colombia, Peru and Chile is supporting demand for international travel, offsetting continuing weakness in Brazil. Capacity rose 4.6 per cent and load factor jumped 2.7 percentage points to 79.7 per cent," the Iata statement said