IATA says indications US laptop ban hit Middle East passenger traffic in April

IATA said the April growth rate for Middle Eastern carriers was slower than the average pace of the last five years

Middle East and North African passenger traffic was likely hit in April by the US ban on carry-on large electronics from 10 airports, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In a report, the organisation noted a 10.7 per cent rise in regional revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) for the month, the fastest growth rate in six years, while capacity in terms of available seat kilometres (ASKs) increased 2.7 per cent to an April record of 82 per cent.

Middle Eastern carriers also posted a 10.8 per cent rise in traffic, 8.9 per cent increase in capacity and 1.3 per cent increase in load factor.

However, their April growth rate was slower than the average pace of the last five years and was seen moving sideways since January. Route data from March also indicated a 2.8 per cent drop in RPKs year-on-year from the Middle East to the US – the first annual decline in seven years, according to IATA.

“April showed us that demand for air travel remains at very strong levels. Nevertheless there are indications that passengers are avoiding routes where the large PED ban is in place,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

“As the US Department of Homeland Security considers expanding the ban, the need to find alternative measures to keep flying secure is critical.”

De Juniac had previously warned in March – the same month the ban for passengers flying to the US from Amman, Cairo, Kuwait City, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Casablanca, Riyadh and Jeddah came into effect – was creating commercial distortions.

Read: IATA CEO says US, UK electronics bans creating ‘severe’ commercial distortions

In the latest report the official estimated that if the ban were extended for flights from Europe to the US, as has been discussed in recent weeks, there would be a $1.4bn hit to productivity.

He also cited a survey by the organisation, which found that 15 per cent of business travellers would seek to educe their travel in the face of the ban.

In the wider world April international passenger demand rose 12.5 per cent year-on-year, with all regions recording double-digit increases for the first time in 12 years.

Total capacity increased by 7.7 per cent and load factor by 3.5 per cent to 81.5 per cent.