Slower carrier traffic growth in Middle East over March, IATA reports
Carriers in the Middle East recorded a traffic growth of just 4.9 percent in March, which is significantly lower than February recorded growth.
The International Air Transport Association, which believes that the recent laptop ban on some airlines and the United Airlines incident could have had an impact, though there is no definitive proof.
In February, the Middle East traffic growth was relatively high at 9.5 percent, with a growth in the global travel demand surging high at 6.8 percent.
The region's carriers recorded robust growth on routes to and from Asia and Europe as capacity increased 9.4 per cent and load factor dropped 3.1 percentage points to 73.1 per cent.
"Slower Middle East growth in March 2017, compared to a year ago, was a considerable slowing from January and February year-over-year demand growth. This is related more to developments seen last year, while any impacts from the laptop ban will be visible from April results onward," Iata said.
Passenger traffic at Dubai International, the world's busiest airport for international passengers, rose by 7.4 per cent in the first quarter 2017 to 22.5 million from a year earlier.
Global passenger traffic results for March show that demand (measured in RPKs) rose 6.8 per cent, compared to the same month a year ago. Capacity grew 6.1 per cent and load factor climbed by half a percentage point to 80.4 per cent, which was a record for the month.
Iata said March demand growth represented a moderate slowdown relative to performance in February after adjusting for the distortion in the year-to-year comparisons owing to the extra day in February 2016.
"The imposition of the ban on large electronics in the cabin on certain routes to the US and UK occurred too late in March to have an effect on traffic figures."
"Strong traffic demand continued throughout the first quarter, supported by a combination of lower fares and a broad-based upturn in global economic conditions. The price of air travel has fallen by around 10 per cent in real terms over the past year and that has contributed to record load factors. We will have to wait another month to see the impact of the laptop ban on demand," said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata's Director General and CEO.
"The first quarter results are strong. But the last weeks have been challenging to the passenger business. The laptop ban - implemented with next to no notice, no dialogue and no coordination, is testing public confidence in how governments and industry work together to keep flying secure," said de Juniac.
He said even as rumors persist that the ban will be expanded to other airports and regions, Iata is calling on governments to work with the industry to find alternatives-to keep flying secure without such great inconvenience to our passengers.
"The video was so shocking that it would be easy for lawmakers and regulators to get caught up in this groundswell of outrage and take steps to limit overselling of flights. However, the management of overbooking has actually worked well for decades. It ensures that scarce capacity is efficiently utilized; we see that in today's record load factors. Overbooking helps airlines avoid empty seats, and that helps to keep costs-and fares-low. Governments have acknowledged that this ultimately benefits consumers. And if industry-level change is discussed, let's make sure that there is a transparent fact-based dialogue between industry and regulators. We must be careful to not risk undoing the many benefits unleashed by the competitive forces of deregulation," said de Juniac.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”