Headwinds facing US-Middle East travel routes dented travel demand
Middle East September passenger traffic growth at slowest pace since 2009
The passenger traffic demand for the carriers in the Middle East recorded a 3.7 per cent year-on-year rise in September, the slowest pace of expansion since February 2009, after business contracted on the US routes following enhanced travel and security restrictions this year, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said.
Although a March ban on portable electronic devices on direct flights from 10 airports in the Middle East was lifted in July, there is a risk, some of them may be affected by travel bans, leading traffic between the region and the US destinations to fall for six consecutive months to August.
“The Middle East-US market has been hit hard by the now lifted cabin ban on large portable electronic devices, as well as the various proposed travel bans to the US,” said the trade body.
Passenger traffic in the Middle East is also grappling with increased capacity, which rose 4.3 per cent in September, with the load factor falling 0.4 per cent to 74.5 per cent
In March, the US slapped a ban on large electronic devices on direct flights from 10 airports in eight countries - Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey amid fears that they could conceal bombs.
Globally, passenger traffic demand grew 5.7 per cent in September, the slowest year-on-year pace of expansion since February because of damage inflicted by hurricanes Irma and Maria in the US and continued tapering of passenger growth. Capacity also grew 5.3 per cent, with load factor rising 0.3 per cent to 81.6 per cent – a record figure for September.
“September’s growth in passenger demand was healthy, notwithstanding the heavy impacts of extreme weather events on the Americas,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s chief executive. “Global economic conditions support rising passenger demand, but with higher cost inputs, the demand stimulation from lower fares has waned, suggesting a moderating trend in traffic growth.”
Iata had previously attributed 7.9 per cent rise in passenger traffic in the first half of this year, a 12-year high, to a better economic picture and lower airfares.
Global airlines posted better earnings in the second quarter than in the year-earlier period amid a pick-up in global economic activity, higher profit margins and lower costs, Iata said in August.