Middle East-based airlines posted the strongest annual traffic growth in the world for the fifth year in a row last year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
IATA said in a statement that demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), rose by 11.8 percent, consolidating the region’s position as the third-largest market for international passengers.
It added that capacity growth (13.7 percent) continued to outstrip demand, with the result that the load factor fell 1.3 percent to 74.7 percent.
Globally, IATA said demand rose 6.3 percent compared to 2015, described as a strong performance that was well ahead of the 10-year average annual growth rate of 5.5 percent.
Capacity rose 6.2 percent compared to 2015, pushing the load factor up 0.1 percent to a record full-year average high of 80.5 percent, it added.
IATA reported a particularly strong performance in December with an 8.8 percent rise in demand outstripping 6.6 percent capacity growth.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said: “Air travel was a good news story in 2016. Connectivity increased with the establishment of more than 700 new routes. And a $44 fall in average return fares helped to make air travel even more accessible. As a result, a record 3.7 billion passengers flew safely to their destination.
“Demand for air travel is still expanding. The challenge for governments is to work with the industry to meet that demand with infrastructure that can accommodate the growth, regulation that facilitates growth and taxes that don’t choke growth.”