GENEVA –The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released full-year traffic results for 2005 showing that international passenger traffic grew by 7.6% in 2005 while international freight traffic increased by 3.2%.

"The industry is returning to a more normal growth pattern after the shocks that began in 2001. Passenger traffic is lower than the 15.3% increase recorded in 2004, but above the historical growth of 6%. Air freight, however is disappointingly low as a result of weaker demand from critical sectors such as IT and semi-conductors," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Regionally, only Latin America (11.4%) and the Middle East (13.1%) reported double-digit passenger traffic growth in 2005. Load factors also improved by 0.9% to 75.1% year over year, reflecting the industry’s restrained response to the more modest growth rate seen in 2005.

December freight traffic showed signs of emerging from its year-long slump. It rose by 5.5% over the same period last year bolstered by improved demand in key Asian and North American markets. December passenger traffic grew by 6.1%.

Despite this growth, the industry lost US$ 6 billion in 2005. US airlines lost US$10 billion, European carriers made US$1.3 billion and Asian carriers earned US$1.5 billion.

“Growth and profitability are completely different concepts. Freight and passenger traffic are forecast to grow in the 5 to 6% range during 2006 but the industry is projected to record another loss of over US$4 billion for 2006,” said Bisignani. “The industry will not see black ink until at least 2007.“

“Cost reduction remains critical. All industry partners and stakeholders will have to sustain their focus on fuel efficiency and attack costs. While we have made some good progress, the road ahead is long. Far too many airport monopolies do not understand the need for efficiency and too many governments are shirking their responsibility to regulate where commercial discipline is absent,” said Bisignani.

“Governments must also modernise their approach to the industry. Air transport is intensely competitive, but airlines are denied basic commercial freedoms by an outdated bi-lateral system and are micro-managed through mis-regulation. For the industry to turn the corner in 2006, the agenda for change must continue,” said Bisignani.