Global demand for air travel is continuing to grow at a “robust rate” despite the Trump administration’s attempted U.S. travel ban, the International Air Transport Association reported.
Total revenue passenger kilometers rose 4.8% in February, compared to the same month last year. Adjusting for the one fewer day in February this year, the underlying growth rate was estimated at 8.6%, just under January’s increase of 8.9%.
Monthly capacity, or available seat kilometers, increased by 2.7%, and load factor rose 1.6 percentage points to 79.5%, the highest ever recorded for February.
“The strong demand momentum from January has continued, supported by lower fares and a healthier economic backdrop,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in a news release Thursday. “Although we remain concerned over the impact of any travel restrictions or closing of borders, we have not seen the attempted U.S. ban on travel from six countries translate into an identifiable traffic trend.”
As Reuters reports, tourism bodies “have warned that travel to the United States could slow this year due to a perception that it is less welcoming to travelers than before.”
But Middle Eastern carriers, among the most affected by the attempted travel restrictions, saw demand rise 9.5 percent in February, while capacity rose 7% and load factor climbed for a fourth consecutive month to 74.3%, up 1.8 percentage points over last year.
For European carriers, demand increased by 6.5%, indicating traffic has resumed its growth after the terrorist disruptions in 2016, supported in part by momentum in the regional economy.
The U.S. Travel Association reported last week that inbound international travel to the U.S. grew faster in February than domestic travel but suggested a decline related to Trump’s attempted travel ban is looming.
“It’s important to remember that there is a significant lag time between searches for international trips and when they’re actually booked, and then another lag between bookings and the actual trip — typically a matter of months,” said David Huether, the USTA’s senior vice president for research.