GENEVA - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released traffic results for the first six months of the year showing 6.3% growth in year-on-year international passenger demand, slightly higher than the 5.9% full-year rise recorded for the year 2006. However, passenger demand growth weakened to 5.3% for the month of June, the lowest growth rate in nine months.

Freight demand for the first six months of 2007 grew 2.7%, well below the 4.6% growth recorded for the full-year in 2006. While year-to-date demand growth is weaker than forecast, June year-on-year demand for freight grew 4.9%. This is the second consecutive month of strengthening demand for freight, following the 5.0% growth recorded in May, and could be indicating a return to historical growth levels in the 5-6% range.

Average passenger load factors were 75.7% during the first half of the year, up 0.6% over the same period in 2006. “A focus on efficiency, with careful capacity management, is keeping load factors at record levels. But the challenge will get tougher. Over the next 18 months almost 1,800 new aircraft will be delivered—equal to 10% of the existing fleet,” said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of IATA.

Asia-Pacific’s carriers will receive the biggest share (35%) of the new aircraft, to meet demand in the fast-growing Chinese and Indian markets. With a stronger emphasis on fleet replacement, but also to meet demand growth, European airlines will take delivery of 26% and North American airlines will take on 25%. “The new aircraft, operated efficiently with high load factors, will keep us on target to improve fuel efficiency 25% by 2020,” said Bisignani.

The Middle East led all regions with passenger demand growth of 17.8% that outpaced capacity growth and boosted load factors during the first half of the year. Africa followed with 9.9% thanks to improving links with Asia and the Middle East. Asia demand rose 6.0% due to favourable economic conditions followed by North America (5.2%), Europe (4.9%) and Latin America (0.7%).

Air freight demand growth was led by airlines in the Middle East during the first half of the year at 11.7%. Demand growth in Asia Pacific rose 4.6% during the same period although demand surged to 7.4% in June following a 7.6% increase in May. Demand growth in Europe was sluggish (0.7%) and contracted in North America (-1.2%) and Latin America (-3.8%).

“Strong passenger demand means that record numbers of people are expected to travel in August. Harmonised security measures across borders are more critical than ever. The US-EU agreement on the sharing of passenger data, signed this month, was a step in the right direction. But governments must focus much more on further harmonisation to ensure that effective security is also convenient for passengers. A particular focus will be the UK, where unique screening policies inconvenience passengers with no improvement in security. The only beneficiary is the airport operator—BAA—that continues to deliver embarrassingly low service levels by failing to invest in appropriate equipment and staff to meet demand. This must stop,” said Bisignani.

Full June Traffic Results (pdf)

Editor's Notes:
    • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents over 240 airlines comprising 94% of international scheduled air traffic.
      • Explanation of measurements:
      • RPK: Revenue Passenger Kilometres measures actual passenger traffic
      • ASK: Available Seat Kilometres measures available passenger capacity
      • PLF: Passenger Load Factor is % of ASKs used. In comparison of 2007 to 2006, PLF indicates point differential between the periods compared.
      • FTK: Freight Tonne Kilometres measures actual freight traffic
      • 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.
    • As at the end of 2006 there were some 18,000 aircraft in the global fleet of commercial jets.