(Geneva) - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced today that international passenger traffic grew by 6.8% and international freight traffic by 5.4% in February. The year-to-date passenger traffic growth of 6.4% is in line with industry projections of 6.5% growth in 2006. International freight traffic grew by 5.3% for the first two months of the year after a period of volatility and weakness in 2005.

"February, traditionally the slowest month for international traffic, brought both good news and solid growth. The recovery in freight has stretched to three months with growth of over 5% resulting from strength in international trade. While passenger growth was in line with projections, North American carrier growth of 3.6% is significantly below the high levels recorded in 2005 as US carriers re-allocated domestic capacity to higher-yielding international markets," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO.

The Middle East remains the fastest growing region with 15.3% passenger traffic gain largely being matched by capacity growth as new aircraft are delivered to the region. Improved economic conditions in Continental Europe and Japan led to increases of 7.3% in Asia and 6.4% in Europe. Load factors also improved. February's passenger load factor of 73.3% was 1.2% higher than in February 2005.

Freight demand also grew at a slightly higher rate than freight capacity. Middle East (19.9%) and Latin America (10.7%) led the world with double-digit freight traffic growth rates. European freight volumes (2.1%) are finally seeing positive volume growth after two months of decline.

"February's growth supports a new and cautious optimism that is returning to the industry. Cost cutting and growth will reduce 2006 losses to US$2.2 billion and lead to a profit of US$7.2 billion in 2007. We are moving in the right direction, but a 3% return on capital invested is a long way from sustainable profitability," said Bisignani.

"As industry prospects improve, staying focused on efficiency and cost reduction remains at the top of the industry's recovery agenda. Our industry partners must step up to the plate and match airlines' efficiency efforts, particularly in Europe—home to the 15 most expensive airports in the world. The European Commission has recognised the need for greater transparency in airport costs and is committed to a Lisbon Agenda to make Europe more competitive. On 7 April, we will present a strong case for more efficient airport infrastructure to the European Commission," said Bisignani.

Full February traffic results

    Editor's Notes:

    • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents 265 airlines comprising 94% of international scheduled air traffic.
    • Explanation of measurements:
      1. RPK: Revenue Passenger Kilometres measures actual passenger traffic
      2. ASK: Available Seat Kilometres measures available passenger capacity
      3. PLF: Passenger Load Factor is % of ASKs used. In comparison of 2006 to 2005, PLF indicates point differential between the periods compared.
      4. FTK: Freight Tonne Kilometres measures actual freight traffic
      5. ATK: Available Tonne Kilometres measures available total capacity (combined passenger and cargo)
    • IATA statistics cover international scheduled air traffic; domestic traffic is not included.
    • All figures are provisional and represent total reporting at time of publication plus estimates for missing data.
    • All figures are provisional and represent total reporting at time of publication plus estimates for missing data.