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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for January 2018 showing traffic (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 4.6% compared to January 2017. This was the slowest year-over-year increase in nearly four years, but results were affected by temporary factors including the later timing of the Lunar New Year in 2018 as well as less favorable comparisons with the strong upward trend in traffic seen in late 2016-early 2017.

IATA estimates the impact of the later Lunar New Year-related travel period holiday represented around two-fifths of the slowdown in year-over-year growth for the month. January capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) rose 5.3%, and load factor slipped half a percentage point to 79.6%.

“Despite the slower start, economic momentum is supporting rising passenger demand in 2018. That said, concerns over a possible trade war involving the US could have a serious dampening effect on global market confidence, spilling over into demand for air travel,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

International passenger demand growth slowed to 4.4% in January, from 6.1% in December, with all regions recording growth, led by Latin America and Europe. Capacity rose 5.3% and load factor dipped 0.7 percentage point to 79.6%.

African airlines saw January traffic rise 4.9% against a mixed backdrop for the region’s largest economies. In Nigeria, business confidence has risen sharply while in South Africa, political uncertainly continues to inflict an economic toll. The region’s capacity rose 4.2%, and load factor edged up 0.5 percentage point to 70.3%.

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