The underlying trend was for stronger passenger growth in January, despite weakness in cargo markets, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said as it announced global traffic results for January. The results show a 5.7 percent rise in passenger demand but an 8.0 percent decline in air freight compared to the same month in 2011, IATA says. The occurrence of Chinese New Year in January (rather than in February as in 2011) exaggerated the increase in passenger demand and the fall in air freight.
“The year started with some hopeful news on business confidence. It appears that freight markets have stabilized, albeit at weak levels. And this is having a positive impact on business-related travel. However, airlines face two big risks: rising oil prices and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Both are hanging over the industry’s fortunes like the sword of Damocles,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO Tony Tyler.
Total January passenger demand rose 5.7 percent compared to January 2011 a slight acceleration from the 5.6 percent year over year increase recorded for December 2011. With January passenger capacity up 4.2 percent, average load factor rose 1.1 percentage points to 76.6 percent compared to the same month a year ago.
International air travel rose 5.5 percent in January year over year, while capacity climbed 4.2 percent, resulting in a load factor of 76.6 percent, up from 75.7 percent in January 2011. North American airlines had a 0.3 percent dip in passenger traffic, but capacity dropped 0.9 percent, pushing load factor up fractionally to 77.6 percent. Next to African carriers, North American passenger demand was the weakest performer, IATA said.
Domestic markets outperformed international markets in aggregate as strong demand in Brazil, China and India helped to push domestic traffic up 6.1 percent compared to January 2011. US January domestic traffic was nearly flat at 0.2 percent, but capacity contracted 1.5 percent, pushing load factor to 78.1 percent.
“Running an airline in today’s uncertain economic climate is a tough job. Some well-known names—Spanair and Malev—disappeared in January. At the same time, we know that demand for air travel will grow as the global economy recovers and requires even greater connectivity. The billions of dollars in commercial orders placed at the recent Singapore Airshow demonstrate that airlines are strategically investing to meet that demand with ever-more fuel efficient and environmentally-sustainable aircraft,” said Tyler.
“The aviation industry is a catalyst for economic growth. Governments should keep this in mind in their policy initiatives. Measures to boost competitiveness—not taxes or restrictions—are immediately needed, along with a long-term vision to support sustainable economic growth through much needed infrastructure investments. This includes the Single European Sky, the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen, Seamless Asian Skies and airport development. Of course, this must be accompanied with polices to improve environmental performance—the commercialization of sustainable biofuels and a global framework for economic measures to manage aviation’s emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization included. Such a holistic policy approach will keep communities sustainably connected to global economic opportunities,” said Tyler.