Growth in international air travel slowed down last year as the aviation sector hit global turbulence, new data reveals.
Growth of 4.5% was down on the 6% level achieved in 2018 and was slower than the trend over the last decade, which averaged 6.8% a year.
While the 4.5% level was “healthily ahead” of global economic growth, it represented “significantly slower” growth than last year, according to new data from ForwardKeys, which analyses 17 million flight booking transactions a day.
Vice president of Insights Olivier Ponti said: “Usually, aviation grows around three percentage points ahead of global GDP.
“However, in the past year, we have seen several events which have held back growth; these include US trade disputes with Canada, China, Mexico and the EU, riots in Chile, France, Hong Kong and India, the grounding of the relatively new Boeing 737 Max aircraft, terrorism in Sri Lanka, the emergence of ‘flight shaming’ and the bankruptcy of Jet Airways.”
Outbound travel from Europe grew by 3.7%. Travel between European countries was up by 3.3% and travel to other continents grew by 5.5%.
However, Europe is rated as the second most promising outbound market in 2020, with international forward bookings for the first quarter 10.5% ahead.
Bookings between European countries are ahead 9.6% and bookings to other continents are ahead 11.8%.
Ponti added: “Travel in the first quarter of 2020 looks set to be buoyant, with long-haul travel showing notably stronger growth than intra-regional travel.
“This is encouraging news for the industry as the further people travel, the more they tend to spend.”
While air travel grew in most parts of the world in 2019, the Middle East was a notable exception with international departures down by 2.4%.
The main cause of this was the bankruptcy of Jet Airways, which had the effect of cutting flight capacity between the region and India. Travel between Middle Eastern countries grew by 0.7% while travel to other parts of the world fell by 3.9%.
Asia Pacific was the stand-out region with international outbound travel growing by 7.7%, reflecting the strong economic growth of the region.
Travel between countries in the Asia Pacific region grew even more strongly, by 8.7%.
Europe did “particularly well” as a destination, registering 11.7% growth from Asia Pacific, boosted by new routes, following a successful EU-China tourism year.
The second placed region was Africa, international travel growth of 7.5%.
The most significant drivers were increases in capacity and in routes by Ethiopian Airlines – capacity between Addis Ababa and Delhi, Guangzhou, Jakarta, Manila and Seoul, and new flights to Bangalore from Addis and New York from Abidjan.
Other airlines also added African routes, including Air China between Johannesburg and Shenzhen, China Southern between Nairobi and Shenzhen, Kenya Airways between Nairobi and New York, LATAM Airlines between Johannesburg and Sao Paulo and Royal Air Maroc between Casablanca and Boston and Miami.
The third placed region was the Americas, where international outbound travel grew by 4.8%.
Travel between countries in the region grew by 3.2% while growth in travel to other regions of the world, which was up 6.8%, helped by the continued strength of the dollar, new connections to many parts of the world and the recovery of Egypt and Turkey as destinations.