Global airline traffic results compiled by IATA
for January 2012 show a 5.7% rise in passenger demand but an 8%
decline in air freight compared to the same month in 2011.
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.
Stripping this out, the underlying trend was for stronger
passenger growth, while stabilized weakness in cargo markets
“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% compared to
January 2011 a slight acceleration from the 5.6% year over year
increase recorded for December 2011. With January passenger
capacity up 4.2%, average load factor rose 1.1 percentage points
to 76.6% compared to the same month a year ago.
Freight markets stood at 8% below January 2011 levels. The decline
in air freight stabilized in the fourth quarter of 2011, at levels
4% below the 2008 pre-crisis peak. There was a 2.5% fall in global
freight markets from December to January, but this is almost
totally attributable to the impact of factory closures due to the
Chinese New Year. Freight capacity contracted by 0.6% year over
year, and freight load factor fell to 41% (from 44.3% in January
2011) as deliveries of new widebody passenger aircraft offset
measures to reduce freight capacity.
International air travel rose 5.5% in
January year over year, while capacity climbed 4.2%, resulting in
a load factor of 76.6%, up from 75.7% in January 2011.
Asia Pacific airlines saw their traffic rise 6% in January
compared to 2011. Capacity climbed 6.4% and load factor dipped
slightly to 77.5%. Year on year traffic growth would have been
softer were it not for the Chinese New Year boost.
European carriers experienced a 5.3% gain in traffic versus
January 2011. The persisting economic weakness of the region
resulted in a considerable drop from the 9.5% growth recorded in
December despite the attractiveness of the weak Euro to tourist
traffic and export activity. The average load factor strengthened
to 75.7% on a 2.7% rise in capacity year over year; however, the
load factor is among the lowest of the regions.
North American airlines had a 0.3% dip in passenger traffic, but
capacity dropped 0.9%, pushing load factor up fractionally to
77.6%. Next to African carriers, the passenger demand was the
Middle East airlines recorded
double-digit traffic growth in January, posting a 14.5% increase.
This was by far the largest rate of growth for any region and
represents a return to the rates experienced in 2010. Capacity
rose 10.6%. Load factor climbed 2.7 points to 78.5%, among the
highest of the regions.
Latin American carriers
continued to enjoy robust passenger demand. Traffic rose 7.9% in
January compared to the same month last year, while capacity
increased 7.4%. At 79.9%, the region’s carriers had the strongest
African airlines reported a 3.6%
decline in demand and a 0.8% decline in capacity, with a load
factor of 64.8%, the lowest load factor among the regions.
Although sub-Saharan economies are showing strong economic growth,
African airlines are finding it difficult to capitalize on the
Domestic Passenger Markets
markets outperformed international markets in aggregate as strong
demand in Brazil, China and India helped to push domestic traffic
up 6.1% compared to January 2011.
• The impact of
Chinese New Year-related traffic was evidenced in China’s domestic
market, which surged 16.8% year over year on a 14.3% lift in
capacity, pushing load factor to 80.8%, the highest recorded for
domestic traffic. On a seasonally adjusted basis, traffic rose
3.2% compared to December. The Chinese market now accounts for
more than 21% of the total global domestic market.
• US January domestic traffic was nearly flat at 0.2%, but
capacity contracted 1.5%, pushing load factor to 78.1%.
• Japan’s traffic was 8.9% below previous year levels,
slightly more than the 8.3% contraction in capacity. Year to year
comparisons are affected by the impact of the March 2011
earthquake and tsunami as well as industry restructuring.
• Brazil’s airlines saw a 10.5% rise in demand while
capacity climbed 14.8%. Load factor was 74.9%, down 2.9 points
from January 2011.
• India traffic rose 8.8% year
over year, while capacity expanded 12.8% and load factor was
74.9%. Demand rose 0.9% compared to December.
Freight (Domestic and International)
in air freight markets ended in the 2011 fourth quarter. The
January contraction largely was owing to the Chinese New Year and
resulted in international demand falling 8.1% while domestic
markets dropped 7%.
Asia Pacific and European airlines
bore the brunt of the international decline, down 14% and 9.6%
respectively compared to January 2011. In addition to the impact
of the holiday, the peripheral economies in Europe have been in
recession and attracting little inbound freight. Until recently
this had been offset by strong outbound traffic flows from
Northern European economies.
Middle Eastern carriers
enjoyed a 9.4% rise in demand, the healthiest performance among
the regions. North American airlines’ demand dropped 4.0%. Latin
American carriers’ traffic climbed 2.2% while African carriers saw
a 3.7% decline compared to the year-go period.
“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,” Tyler added.
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