Global airline traffic looks to be sustaining the robust growth it has been posting over the past few months, with seats filled in August matching a record showing, says the International Air Transport Association.
Airline traffic expanded by 6.8 per cent in August, compared with the year-earlier period, the agency said on Wednesday.
Disciplined capacity increases by airlines helped push the load factor – or number of seats filled – to 83.4 per cent in August, matching the record high set in July 2011, according to IATA statistics.
"August was a positive month for passenger travel. Strong demand and capacity discipline saw load factors match the previous record high of 83.4 per cent. The solid performance was also supported by a stabilization of emerging market weakness and renewed confidence in Europe and North America," IATA director-general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said in a news release.
He cautioned that conditions remain difficult, with high oil prices, stiff competition and regulatory challenges.
"But demand growth remains a bright spot with most indications pointing towards an acceleration in the fourth quarter," he said.
Growth was especially strong in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, said the agency.
Traffic on international routes in August was up 7.5 per cent, with domestic-travel demand up 5.6 per cent.
Middle East carriers posted the strongest year-over-year traffic growth at 15.1 per cent, helped by the fact that Ramadan – when Muslims curb travel – this year fell in July.
In Latin America, airlines saw a rise in demand of 9.8 per cent in August.
The Asia Pacific region recorded an increase of 8.6 per cent.
The slowest growth was in North America, at 5.1 per cent.
"Looking ahead, the US Government shutdown is not expected to impact airline operations but could dampen demand," IATA said.
"The 27-day shutdown in 1996, for example, resulted in delays for tens of thousands of passport and visa applications."
Meanwhile, European carriers' international traffic rose 5.4 per cent, thanks to "modest economic improvements and rising consumer confidence."