The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports a 3.6 percent increase in passenger traffic in October, but a drop in cargo demand to 4.7 percent below the same month in 2010. In stark contrast to the decline in air freight, the trend for air travel remains upwards, but with very strong regional differences, IATA said.
Despite the deepening euro-zone crisis European carriers have shown above trend demand growth of 6.4 percent. “With Europe accounting for 29.2 percent of global air travel, this suggests that the current overall strength in air travel is based on fragile foundations,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO.
International passenger load factors stood at 77.6 percent, down from the 79.5 percent recorded at the same time last year.
North American carriers saw international passenger traffic decline by 1.9 percent while capacity was almost the same levels compared to the previous October. One of the main drivers for the decline in traffic is capacity cuts by US carriers. International load factors stood at 80.1 percent, second only to Europe at 80.2 percent.
European carriers reported a 6.4 percent increase in international passenger traffic, below the 8.1 percent increase in capacity. The load factor of 80.2 prevent was the highest among the regions. Half of all growth in capacity and traffic carried on international markets over the past year has been generated by European airlines, IATA said.
"Despite the euro-zone crisis, the North Atlantic and intra-European passenger segments have been the strongest performers over the past year. The driver of this performance is most likely business-related travel generated by the strong export performance of the Northern European economies," IATA said.
Domestic passenger markets grew by 2.0 percent compared to October 2010. Capacity growth in domestic markets outstripped this rise, showing a 2.4 percent increase over the previous year. This is in line with the long-term growth trend for domestic markets of 2.0 percent; however it is well below the 8.0 percent growth experienced during the post-recession recovery, IATA said.
U.S. airlines cut capacity on domestic markets by 1.1 percent. Weak consumer confidence saw demand decline by 0.9 percent. U.S. airlines reported strong load factors of 83.6 percent, IATA said in its analysis.
“As we enter the year-end period, we are reminded of the vital role that aviation plays in our globalized world. Families and friends will reunite. Holiday gifts will be exchanged across countries and continents. Valuable tourism dollars will be spent in every corner of the planet. Much of this is facilitated by efficient air links that have turned our planet into a global community,” said Tyler.
Tyler urged policy makers to reflect on aviation’s significant social and economic benefits. Aviation supports 33 million jobs. And trillions of dollars of economic activity are supported by air transport’s connectivity. This year more than 2.8 billion people and 46 million tons of cargo are expected to be transported by safe and efficient air links, IATA said.
“The economic prospects for 2012 are uncertain, but the track record of aviation’s ability to act as a catalyst for economic activity is rock-solid. Now is the time for governments to use aviation strategically in their efforts to put economies back on track. Implementing a Single European Sky, delivering NextGen air traffic management in the U.S. and supporting the commercialization of sustainable biofuels for aviation are examples of government action that would generate jobs, improve environmental performance and help secure the industry’s long-term success and economic benefits,” said Tyler.