Air Traffic Jumps Most in Five Years as Fares Follow Oil Lower

  • Asia led way in 2015; Chinese domestic routes still strong
  • Internal U.S. services post biggest gains since 2004
Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Airline traffic surged 6.5 percent last year, the most since the post-slump rebound of 2010, as cuts in fares prompted by the lower oil price encouraged people to travel even amid a generally weaker economic situation.

Since capacity increased by 5.6 percent compared with 2014, aircraft also flew fuller, with the industry-wide load factor gaining 0.6 of a percentage point to a record 80.3 percent, the International Air Transport Association said Thursday. Prices fell 5 percent on average, adjusted for a stronger dollar.

Demand grew fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for one-third of the total increase. Asian airlines boosted traffic 8.2 percent in the year on international routes, while the Chinese domestic market posted an 11 percent gain -- the same as in 2014 -- as consumer spending proved more resilient than the wider economy, IATA said.

The U.S. saw the biggest gains in domestic traffic since 2004, at 4.9 percent, outstripping the 3.2 percent advance in international demand for North American carriers. Europe’s international growth of 5 percent was held back by strikes at Deutsche Lufthansa AG and the collapse of Russia’s OAO Transaero.

Middle Eastern carriers led by Dubai-based Emirates achieved the biggest overall gain in international traffic at 10.5 percent, giving them a 14.2 percent share of the market that overtook that of North American carriers.

Latin America achieved 9.3 percent international growth, while Africa once again lagged behind the rest of the world with a 3 percent advance that, while spurred by the retreat of the Ebola epidemic, was “still slow for an emerging market,” according to IATA.

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