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Global demand for air travel in 2015 was the strongest in five years, new Iata figures reveal.
The performance was the best since the post-global financial crisis rebound in 2010 and was well above the 10-year average annual growth rate of 5.5%, according to the aviation trade body.
Lower fares helped boost the 6.5% rise in demand over the previous year despite a weaker “economic fundamentals”.
Air fares globally were about 5% lower than in 2014, after adjusting for distortions caused by the rise of the US dollar.
All regions of the world saw positive traffic growth in 2015. Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region accounted for one-third of the total annual increase in traffic.
Overall annual capacity rose 5.6% last year, with the result that load factor climbed 0.6 percentage points to a record annual high of 80.3%.
Iata director general and chief executive, Tony Tyler, said: “Last year’s very strong performance, against a weaker economic backdrop, confirms the strong demand for aviation connectivity.
“But even as the appetite for air travel increased, consumers benefitted from lower fares compared to 2014.
“Aviation delivered strong results for the global economy in 2015, enabling connectivity and helping to drive economic development.
“The value of aviation is well understood by friends and families whom aviation brings together, by business travelers meeting clients in distant cities, and particularly by those for whom aviation is a lifeline in times of crisis.”
But Tyler added: “It is very disappointing to see that some governments still wrongly believe that the value of taxes and charges that can be extracted from air transport outweighs the benefits – economic and social – of connectivity.
“The most recent example is the dramatic increase in the Italian Council Tax levied on air passengers. This 33%-38% hike will damage Italian economic competitiveness, reduce passenger numbers by over 755,000 and GDP by €146 million per year. An estimated 2,300 jobs a year will be lost.
“At a time when the global economy is showing signs of weakening, governments should be looking for ways to stimulate spending, not discourage it.”