(Reuters) - Middle Eastern carriers saw their slowest rate of international growth in September in over eight years, with a temporary ban on electronics and proposed travel restrictions hitting demand, according to an airline industry body on Thursday.
Demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometers, rose 3.7 percent in September, the slowest rise since February 2009, the International Air Transport Association said in its regular monthly traffic update.
Gulf carriers such as Emirates and Etihad have come under pressure from overcapacity, security concerns and a drop in regional business travel.
“The Middle East-U.S. market has been hit hard by the now lifted cabin ban on large portable electronic devices, as well as the various proposed travel bans to the U.S.,” IATA said.
It said that traffic between the region and the United States had dropped in August, the most recent month for which that data is available. That was the sixth straight month of declines making it the only international market not to have shown year-on-year growth in the first eight months of the year.
Overall in September, global demand for air travel rose 5.7 percent, the slowest growth since February as hurricanes in the United States hit travel, IATA said.
It said airline capacity rose 5.3 percent and airlines’ load factor, which measures how effectively a carrier fills seats, increased by 0.3 percentage points to 81.6 percent.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria weighed heavily on the results, although growth already had been tapering,” IATA said in a statement.
IATA said North American airlines saw demand rise 3 percent in September, and added there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that traffic to the United States was being hampered by additional security measures.
Reporting by Stratos Karakasidis and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Susan Fenton and Maria Sheahan