We project passenger air traffic to gain 5.5% in 2018, with half of the gain (+2.4%) likely to come from the favorable macroeconomic conditions. In addition, passenger traffic may get a boost from reinstatement of regular airline service to Egypt as well as from the FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia. The above factors combined may bring additional 3.1 per cent of gains to the market.
The key factors for the air transportation market from the macroeconomic point of view are the evolution of population income and the ruble exchange rate. However, as the real disposable income of the population stayed flat in 2017, significant growth of consumer lending by banks had the most profound effect on the market. Experts assume a gradual rouble depreciation in 2018-2022 and expect the annual average USD/RUB exchange rate to be in the 58-63 range. A weaker rouble leads to reallocation of passenger traffic from international to domestic destinations, which partially evens the negative effect for airlines from rouble depreciation.
Carriage cost decline contributed to a substantial growth of the air transportation market in 2017. According to ACRA preliminary estimates, the industry-average RASK (revenue per available seat kilometer) declined by 6-9 per cent. The railroad long-distance passenger transportation, on the other hand, saw an increase in carriage costs: for some destinations, the shift of passengers to air travel continued last year.
Carriage cost dynamics will continue determining not only the balance between air and railroad transportation, but also the general development trends of the air travel market. At the same time, the following factors will have a significant effect on the cost: a sizable jet fuel price increase, changes in airport infrastructure regulation, increase in payroll costs, and others. However, the competition between air carriers will not allow them to fully pass their increased costs to passengers.
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