Middle East carriers posted a 3.7 percent rise in passenger demand in May compared to a year ago, close to an eight-year low, according to latest figures.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said although year-to-year comparisons are distorted by the strong performance for the same period a year ago, the slowdown also reflects the ban on the carriage of large portable electronics devices in the cabin from 10 airports in the region to the US.
Passenger traffic growth in the Middle East to North America market was already slowing in early-2017. But revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs, fell again in April (-1.2 percent) for just the second time since at least 2010. By comparison, the route to and from Europe has continued to trend upwards this year, IATA added.
The wider impact on inbound travel to the US from the Trump Administration's proposed travel bans was also blamed for the downturn, IATA also noted.
The impact, however, will be shortlived as the US laptop ban was lifted last week for all Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways flights.
IATA said in a statement that Middle East airline capacity in May increased 5.7 percent, while load factor dropped 1.3 percent to 69.8 percent.
Globally, IATA announced that passenger demand rose 7.7 percent compared to the same month in 2016. This was slower than the 10.9 percent growth recorded in April.
However, this still was well ahead of the 5- and 10-year average growth rates. Capacity climbed 6.1 percent, and load factor rose 1.2 percent to 80.1 percent, which was a record high for the month.
All regions, excluding the Middle East and North America, posted record-high May load factors.
After adjusting for inflation, airfares at the start of the second quarter were around 6 percent lower than a year ago, IATA said.
"Passenger demand is solid. And we don’t foresee any weakening over the busy summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. But the rising price of fuel and other input costs is likely to see airlines’ ability to stimulate markets with lower fares taper over the coming months," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
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