Global air travel is booming

Photo: iStock

Global air travel boomed over the past 12 months, providing further anecdotal evidence that the global economy is strengthening.

According to figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an industry body representing 275 airlines accounting for 83% of total air traffic, revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) grew by 10.7% year-on-year in April, accelerating on the 6.5% pace of March.

RPKs are calculated by multiplying paying passengers by total distance travelled.

It was the fastest pace since April 2011, with passenger traffic in the first four months of the year lifting 7.9% from the same period in 2016. Taking into account the leap year, IATA said growth was even stronger at 8.7%.

A clear signal that the global economy is strengthening, mirroring improved readings in other economic indicators.

Source: IATA

“This strong trend has been driven by a combination of a broad-based pick-up in global economic conditions, as well as lower airfares,” the IATA said. “Both factors have helped to underpin and to stimulate passenger demand.”

The group sees passenger demand remaining strong in the coming months, pointing to the likelihood that annual growth will be above its historic average.

Over the year, international RPKs grew by 12.5% with all regions recording double-digit growth, the first time that’s been seen in 12 years.

Europe, in particular, put in a strong showing with RPKs lifting 14.4% from a year earlier, the fastest annual growth in six years.

“This was the fastest pace since April 2011, when comparison with disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud a year earlier boosted the annual growth rate,” said IATA. “Excluding this one-off event, April’s growth rate was the fastest in nearly 13 years.”

Again, another sign of strengthening economic conditions.

This table shows annual growth in RPKs by region, comparing the results in April to those of a month earlier.

Source: IATA

In terms of domestic air travel, IATA said RPKs grew by a 7.7% from a year earlier, a slight acceleration on the 7.4% pace of March.

Three of the four “BRIC” nations — Russia, India and China — all logged annual increases in excess of 12%. All other markets recorded growth in RPKs from a year earlier, with the exception of Australia.

“Australia was the only domestic market to see a year-on-year decline in RPKs in April,” IATA said. “Once you adjust for the extra day in early 2016 owing to the leap year, domestic Australia RPKs have barely grown in year-on-year terms in 2017.”

Another slightly concerning read on the health of the Australian economy in an otherwise bullish global report.

This chart from IATA shows annual growth in domestic RPKs by region:

Source: IATA

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