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Asia Pacific air traffic rises 5.4% in March

MANILA, Philippines - Air passenger traffic in the Asia Pacific region, including the Philippines, climbed 5.4 percent last March, or almost at par with global passenger traffic, data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed.

IATA reported that the increase in the number of passengers carried by Asia-Pacific airlines last March could be traced to the strong growth in the Chinese market as well as an improvement in Asia trade since the fourth quarter have supported increased demand.

The organization said half of the growth in international traffic since October has been carried by Asia-Pacific carriers while capacity rose 3.4 percent year-on-year and load factor climbed 1.5 percentage points to 79 percent.

In all, IATA reported that global passenger traffic results for March increased 5.9 percent and continued to show strong demand growth led by emerging markets with all regions showing gains.

IATA director general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said in a statement that part of the rise could be attributable to traffic related to the Easter holiday that occurred in March this year versus April last year.

Demand expanded eight percent in the six months since October 2012 as capacity rose 3.5 percent while load factor improved 1.8 percentage points to 80.3 percent.

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“Strong demand for air travel is consistent with improving business conditions. Performance, however, has been uneven. Mature markets are seeing relatively little growth while emerging markets continue to show a robust expansion. Although oil prices have softened in recent weeks, they remain high against historical averages. In view of this, airlines are responding with a very cautious approach to capacity management,” Tyler said.

March international passenger demand rose six percent compared to the year-ago period with Latin America and the Middle East posting the strongest growth in the emerging markets.

Middle East carriers experienced the strongest traffic growth with15.6 percent, followed by Latin American airlines with 11.8 percent, and African airlines with 8.2 percent. European carriers recorded 3.7 percent growth on international services while the international traffic of North American airlines climbed 2.4 percent.

Domestic markets also experienced strong growth with traffic up 5.7 percent in March largely driven by China whose domestic market traffic jumped 16.6 percent followed by India with seven percent, the US with 3.1 percent and Australia with 2.7 percent.

On the other hand, IATA reported that domestic traffic in Brazil slipped 1.4 percent as airlines have reduced capacity in response to downward pressure on profitability owing to slower than expected economic growth while that of Japan fell 1.1 percent.

Tyler cited the sequestration-related budget cuts in the US affecting business confidence in the world market.

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