By Chinelo Obogo

African airlines witnessed an 18.5% surge in air passenger traffic in January 2024, signifying a positive start to the year for the African aviation industry.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which released data for January 2024 global passenger demand, January capacity for African airlines was up 19.2% causing load factor to decline 0.4 percentage points to 73.3%.

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The report said Asia-Pacific airlines saw an 45.4% increase in January 2024 traffic compared to January 2023, continuing the region’s rapid recovery after the lifting of pandemic restrictions. Capacity climbed 48.1% and the load factor fell by 1.5 percentage points to 82.6%. The strong growth rate is largely attributable to China which was in the early stages of lifting COVID-19 travel restrictions in January 2023. The recovery in major international routes to/from Asia-Pacific is still lagging, but routes such as Asia-Middle East have exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

European carriers’ January 2024 traffic rose 10.8% versus January 2023. Capacity increased 10.7%, and the load factor edged up 0.1 percentage points to 77.3%. Routes between Europe and North America have rebounded particularly strongly from the pandemic and stand 6.5% higher than in January 2020.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 16.2% rise in January 2024 traffic compared to a year ago. Capacity rose 15.7% and load factor climbed 0.4 percentage points to 79.9%. North American carriers had a 12.3% traffic rise in January 2024 versus the 2023 period. Capacity also increased 13.7%, and load factor fell 1.0 percentage point to 79.4%. Latin American airlines’ traffic rose 17.9% compared to the same month in 2023. January capacity climbed 13.2%, pushing the load factor up 3.4 percentage points to 86%, the highest among the regions.

For international travel, total demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometers, was up 16.6% and the load factor was 79.9%. For international travel, demand rose 20.8%; capacity was up 20.9% and the load factor remained at 79.7%. For domestic travel, demand rose 10.4%; capacity was up 4.6% and the load factor was 80.2%.

Commenting on the data, IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said: “2024 is off to a strong start despite economic and geopolitical uncertainties. As governments look to build prosperity in their economies in the busiest election-year ever, it is critical that they see aviation as a catalyst for growth. Increased taxes and onerous regulation are a counterweight to prosperity. We will be looking to governments for policies that help aviation to reduce costs, improve efficiency and make progress towards net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.”