Dubai: Airlines in the Middle East in January recorded the slowest growth rate in passenger numbers since September 2008, with demand rising just 0.5 per cent compared to January 2017.
The growth rate during the month is also the weakest compared to that recorded by airlines in other regions, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The slowdown comes as the market to and from North America has been especially hard hit owing to factors such as the temporary electronics ban in 2017 and travel bans to the US on the entry of citizens of certain nationalities.
IATA said capacity for regional carriers climbed, however, by 4.6 per cent, and the load factor fell 3.1 percentage points to 76.8 per cent.
The passenger traffic growth comes in comparison to carriers in Latin America, for example, which recorded a 7.3 per cent year-on-year jump in passenger traffic in January 2018. African airlines saw traffic rise 4.9 per cent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, airlines in Europe saw a 6 per cent increase in international traffic in January compared to a year ago, as carriers in the Asia Pacific region recorded a demand increase of 4.6 per cent.
Trade wars spillover
In the report, Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and chief executive officer, warned about the implications of a possible trade war, saying it would impact demand for air travel.
“Despite the slower start, economic momentum is supporting rising passenger demand in 2018,” he said.
“That said, concerns over a possible trade war involving the US could have a serious dampening effect on global market confidence, spilling over into demand for air travel.”
His warnings on the impact of trade wars come after US President Donald Trump said he would implement a tariff on steel and aluminium imports, leading other nations and blocs including the European Union to say they would introduce retaliatory measures.
In a separate statement, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said on Thursday that the number of people using airports across the country in February 2018 reached 10 million, inching down from the 10.23 million who used airports in February 2017.