Airline chiefs meet in Seoul this weekend for the annual general meeting of Iata amid “challenging times”, according to Alexandre de Juniac, Iata director general.
De Junaic said: “2019 is expected to be the 10th consecutive year of airline profits, but rising costs, trade wars and other uncertainties are likely to have an impact on the bottom line.
“The prolonged grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is also taking its toll and aviation, like all industries, is under intensified scrutiny for its impact on climate change.”
The global airline chief executives will meet as Iata announced a rise in global passenger traffic of 4.3% in April, with capacity increasing at a slower rate of 3.6%.
De Junaic said: “We experienced solid but rising demand for air connectivity in April. This is partly owing to the timing of Easter, but also reflects the slowing global economy.”
He said: “Global trade is falling, driven by tariffs and trade disputes and as a result we are not seeing traffic grow at the same levels as a year ago.”
However, De Junaic added: “Airlines are doing a very good job of managing aircraft utilisation, leading to record load factors.”
Iata reported international passenger demand in April rose 5.1% over April 2018, with Europe leading year-on-year traffic increases in every region.
Airline traffic in Europe rose 8% year on year in April. However, Iata warned: “The global economic and trade backdrop – along with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit – is impacting demand.”
Traffic in Asia-Pacific rose 2.9%, well below the long-term average, while capacity increased 3.7%.
Iata noted: “The results largely reflect the slowdown in global trade, including the impact from China-US trade tensions which continue to weigh on passenger demand.”
Middle East carriers saw a 2.9% rise in demand in April. But Iata reported: “In seasonally-adjusted terms the downward trend in traffic growth continues, reflecting broader structural changes in the region.” Capacity in the Middle East fell 1.6%.
North American airlines recorded a 5.5% increase in demand year on year based on “a strong domestic economy, low unemployment and a strong dollar offsetting any impacts from trade tensions”. Capacity in North America rose 3.2% year on year.
Latin American carriers saw a 5.2% rise in passengers in April, with capacity up by 4.0% “against a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty in key regional economies”.
Africa’s airlines recorded a 1.1% traffic increase, the slowest regional growth since 2015.
Iata also reported a contraction in domestic traffic in India for the first time in six years – a decline of 0.5% year on year – “reflecting the shut-down of Jet Airways”.