Passenger Demand Rises 21.5% in February

Passengers in an airport terminal.
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released promising data for global passenger demand in February 2024.

The industry continued on its recovery path, with continued demand yielding a 21.5% increase in passenger demand for the month.

International vs. Domestic

In terms of overall growth, passenger demand (measured in RPKs) jumped 21.5% compared to February 2023.

Available seat kilometers (ASKs) representing capacity grew by 18.7% year-on-year. This resulted in a healthy load factor of 80.6%, a 1.9 percentage point increase from February 2023.

International Travel Booming

International demand surged by 26.3% year-on-year, with capacity rising by 25.5%. The load factor reached 79.3%, a 0.5 percentage point improvement. This suggests a strong return for long-haul travel.

Domestic Travel on the Rise

Domestic demand rose 15.0% compared to February 2023. Capacity increased by 9.4%, and the load factor reached 82.6%, a significant 4.0 percentage point jump. This indicates a growing preference for domestic air travel within countries.

Leap Year Impact

It’s important to note that February 2024 had one extra day compared to 2023. This slightly inflates the growth figures for both demand and capacity.

A busy airport terminal.
Photo Credit: Skitterphoto via Pexels

Industry Optimism Despite Challenges

“The positive trend from early 2024 continued in February,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

“Most markets, except North America, saw double-digit passenger traffic growth. We’re optimistic about the industry’s prospects in 2024, especially with airlines prioritizing decarbonization and passenger demand remaining resilient despite geopolitical and economic uncertainties.”

IATA urges policymakers to avoid new travel taxes that could hinder this positive momentum and increase travel costs.

Specifically, concerns were raised about Europe’s potential tax proposals, which could weigh down the continent’s sluggish economic recovery.

International Passenger Market Breakdown

International Travel Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Levels

All regions experienced double-digit growth in international passenger traffic compared to February 2023.

Notably, international demand even exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 0.9%. However, this is partially due to the extra day in February 2024.

Gatwick Sky Bridge Photographer Joel James Devlin

Regional Highlights

Asia-Pacific Leads the Way

 Asia-Pacific airlines witnessed the most significant growth, with demand increasing by 53.2% year-on-year. Capacity grew at a similar pace (52.1%), resulting in the highest regional load factor of 84.9%.

Europe Shows Moderate Growth 

European carriers experienced a 15.9% increase in demand with a corresponding capacity rise. The load factor remained flat at 74.7% compared to February 2023.

Other Regions See Varied Growth 

Middle Eastern airlines saw a 19.7% demand increase, Latin American airlines grew by 21.0%, and African airlines by 20.7%. While demand rose in all regions, capacity growth differed, impacting load factors.

Looking Ahead

The air travel industry continues on its recovery path, with continued strong demand and increasing capacity. Most major world regions enjoyed double-digit growth for February, and this has meant a continuation of a positive trend.

On the air cargo front, the industry has progressively moved out of a period of softer demand. February become the third consecutive month of double-digit growth for the global air cargo sector.

While there are external challenges, the focus on sustainability and passenger resilience provides a positive outlook for 2024.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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