Sunday, January 2nd 2011 - 23:33 UTC

Air traffic growth moderates: begins to expand at historic rates, says IATA

International scheduled air traffic results for November showed an 8.2% year-on-year passenger traffic growth and a 5.4% increase for freight, according to the latest report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO

Passenger load factor for November averaged 75.6% while the freight load factor stood at 55.2%.

However November saw traffic growth slow from the 10% increase recorded in the passenger business and the 14.5% growth in freight in October. The slowdown in 2010 is partially skewed because of the exceptionally rapid rise in traffic volumes recorded during the fourth quarter of 2009. However, when viewed in absolute terms, air travel fell by 0.8% and air freight fell by 1.1% between October and November 2010.

IATA points out that this slower growth does not necessarily signal a negative trend. Even with the decline in November, passenger and freight traffic are still expanding at annualized rates of between 5-6% which is in line with the industry’s historical growth trend.

“The industry is shifting gears in the recovery cycle. Growth is slowing towards normal historical levels in the 5-6% range. Relative weakness in developed markets is being offset by the momentum of economic expansion in developing markets. We see a strong end to 2010 that boosted the year’s profit forecast to 15.1 billion USD. Slowing traffic growth is in line with our projections for a reduced profit of 9.1 billion in 2011. That’s a 1.5% margin. More hard work will be needed in the New Year to achieve sustainable levels of profitability,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

A quick review of international passenger demand shows that the level of air travel is now 4% above the pre-recession peak of early 2008. All regions, except Africa, reported a slowing in year-on-year growth rates from October to November.

Europe’s carriers recorded 7.3% growth in passenger traffic, below the 9.4% recorded in October. Overall travel performed by the region’s carriers is only slightly ahead of the pre-recession levels of early 2008. North American carriers saw their growth slow from 12.4% in October to 9.5% in November. Capacity growth in November was 9.5%, resulting in a load factor of 78.1%, the highest among the regions. November passenger traffic levels for North American carriers equaled the pre-recession levels of early 2008. Asia-Pacific carriers saw their growth slow from 7.3% in October to 5.8% in November.

Capacity expanded relatively in tandem (5.9%) for a load factor of 75.6%. Despite the region’s strong economic growth and financial performance, November traffic levels were still 2% below pre-recession levels. Latin American carriers showed the most dramatic decline in growth rates—from 4.9% in October to virtually zero in November.

The lingering impact of the Mexicana failure is the largest contributing factor in this decline which resulted in a 2.1% absolute contraction of travel performed by the region’s carriers between October and November. Adjusting figures to eliminate the impact of Mexicana, the region would be experiencing growth in the low double digits. The region’s load factor stands at 77.5%. Middle East carriers saw their growth rate decline from 17.8% in October to 16.7% in November. The region’s carriers handled 16% more traffic in November than at the pre-recession peak in early 2008, showing that they have gained market share over the course of the recession and the recovery. The region recorded a load factor of 74.3%, below the global average of 75.6%.

Meanwhile air freight recovery hit a peak in May 2010. Compared to that peak, volumes have fallen 7%. The volume of air freight in November was equal to pre-recession levels of early 2008. November’s year-on-year growth of 5.4% is a significant shift from the 14.5% recorded in October. This was exaggerated by the exceptionally strong performance in November 2009. In absolute terms, there was a 1.1% fall in freight volumes from October to November. All regions, except Africa, showed dramatic drops in year-on-year growth rates from October to November.
 

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