Airline association IATA reported “a surge in passenger demand” in April, but said the US laptop ban “may be affecting” Middle East-US traffic.
Latest traffic data, released ahead of Iata’s annual general meeting in Cancun commencing on Sunday, showed a 10.7% worldwide rise in traffic, the fastest pace of growth for six years. Capacity was up 7.1% on a year ago.
Iata reported “the strong performance” was boosted by lower airfares, noting: “The price of air travel in the first quarter was around 10% lower than a year ago after adjusting for inflation.”
However, it said: “The cabin ban on the carriage of large portable electronic devices from 10 Middle Eastern and African airports to the US appears to have weighed down Middle East-North America passenger traffic.
Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “Demand remains very strong, [but] there are indications passengers are avoiding routes where the ban is in place.
“The need to find alternative measures to keep flying secure is critical as the US Department of Homeland Security considers expanding the ban.”
De Juniac said: “An Iata-commissioned survey of business travellers indicated 15% would seek to reduce their travel in the face of a ban.”
He warned: “If the ban were extended to Europe-US flights, we estimate a $1.4 billion hit on productivity.”
International passenger traffic rose 12.5% on April 2016, with all regions recording double-digit growth for the first time in 12 years.
Middle East carriers posted a 10.8% traffic rise in April. However, that was below the average pace of growth for the past five years, and March figures showed traffic on Middle East airlines to the US fell 2.8% – the first decline in this market in seven years.
The ban on passengers carrying electronic devices larger than a smartphone in the cabin of Middle East carriers on flights to the US was announced on March 21.
Europe’s carriers saw demand rise 14.4% in April, against an increase in capacity of 7.9%.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ traffic increased 10.9% year on year in April – a 14-month high.
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