Middle East airlines led the world in passenger growth last year, according to industry body the International Air Transport Association, in the process surpassing their North American counterparts in terms of international market share.
The region’s airlines, dominated by the big three of Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, benefited from a 10.5 per cent increase in revenue passenger kilometres, a key industry measure, for the year, coming in ahead of their peers in Latin America, with 9.3 per cent growth and Asia Pacific, 8.2 per cent.
Etihad last month announced it carried 17.4 million passengers during 2015, a year-on-year increase of 17 per cent on 2014. Emirates meanwhile reported a 10 per cent rise in passenger numbers for six months to the end of September 2015.
Regional carriers grew their capacity by 13.2 per cent during the year, exceeding demand gains, according to Iata, decreasing load factor by 1.7 per cent to 76.4 per cent.
The strong growth in demand helped Middle East carriers take a 14.2 share of total international air passenger traffic during the year, rising above the 13.4 per cent market share held by airlines in North America.
The rise in regional carriers’ market share comes in the face of increasing regular scrutiny overseas, with accusations from North American and European airlines of unfair practices in breach of open skies agreements, claims that Gulf carriers deny.
Global passenger traffic grew 6.5 per cent compared with 2014, Iata reported, the strongest growth since 2010, with demand boosted by an approximately 5 per cent drop in fares compared with 2014.
“Even as the appetite for air travel increased, consumers benefited from lower fares compared to 2014,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general and chief executive.
“Last year’s very strong performance, against a weaker economic backdrop, confirms the strong demand for aviation connectivity.”
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