Hong Kong - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today released international traffic data for January.
Year-on-year international passenger demand grew by 4.3% in January. This is sharply down from the 6.7% growth recorded in December and the 7.4% recorded for the full-year of 2007. Capacity growth of 4.2% saw load factors inch up to 75.1%. International cargo demand growth remained sluggish. At 4.5% for January it was largely unchanged from the 4.7% year-on-year growth recorded in December.
- At 0.3%, European carriers saw the largest fall (from 5.5% in December) and weakest growth of all regions. While intra-Europe traffic remained relatively strong, the largest drop came in long-haul markets. This is largely due to the strong Euro weakening the competitiveness of Europe’s airlines.
- North American carriers recorded 5.0% growth in international passenger traffic, down slightly from the 6.0% recorded in December. US domestic traffic contracted by 3-4%, as carriers re-deployed capacity to more lucrative international routes. Increased competitiveness from a weak US dollar helped drive load factors to an industry leading 77.2%.
- Asia Pacific carriers saw a marginal drop in demand growth from 6.2% in December to 5.7% in January. Despite the weak Japanese economy, carriers in the region benefited from increased competitiveness due to the strong Euro and the booming economies of both India and China.
- Latin American airlines continue to see a sharp recovery (16.9% growth in January) on the back of strong economies, driven partly by Asian commodity demand, and continued restructuring. Middle Eastern growth slowed sharply to 7.4% but this seems due to slower growth in capacity rather than any change in the strong oil-driven upward trend in growth. African airlines saw a second disappointingly slow month of growth (2.8%), despite good regional economic growth.
- Steady year-on-year air freight growth of 4.5% was recorded in January. This runs contrary to downward trends in many leading indicators including semi-conductor shipments and manufacturing business confidence levels.
- Air cargo has been growing at half the rate of global trade expansion, indicating a loss of market share to shipping which has benefited from faster ships and cheaper fuel costs. While aviation fuel rose 300% between 2002 and the first half of 2007, residual fuel for ships increased by 200%. During the last half of 2007 the gap narrowed with the sharp increase in prices. Both modes are experiencing a 500% increase in fuel costs compared to 2002. The result is that air cargo has clawed back some lost market share, masking any early impacts from the downturn in the US economy.
- In the larger freight markets there is continued strength. Asia Pacific airlines saw demand increase 6.5%, up from 6% in December, boosted by the booming economies in China and India. European airlines saw freight slump to 0.4% in a pattern very similar to passenger traffic. Most of the air freight is carried on long-haul markets where business for the European airlines has suffered from the strong Euro.
“January traffic results show that we could be at a turning point. A month’s data is not enough to define a trend, however, the sharp shift in demand growth patterns makes it clear that the US credit crunch is negatively impacting air travel. Fasten your seatbelts. There is likely to be turbulence ahead,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“This is an unusual situation for the industry. Asia outside of Japan is looking strong, even as the US economy weakens. This highlights the need for the air transport industry to globalise. The outdated bilateral system and national ownership rules will prevent the industry from responding as a normal business to economic shifts. Airlines cannot diversify risk, so the parts of the industry will see the impact of the US credit crunch with very little buffer. This must change,” said Bisignani.
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Notes for Editors:
- IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 240 airlines comprising 94% of scheduled international air traffic.
- Explanation of measurement terms:
- 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.
- International passenger traffic market shares by region in terms of RPK are: Europe 34.0%, Asia Pacific 31.8%, North America 18.8%, Middle East 8.0%, Latin America 3.7%, Africa 3.1%
- International freight traffic market shares by region in terms of FTK are: Asia Pacific 46.1%, Europe 25.9%, North America 17.2%, Middle East 7.4%, Latin America 2.2%, Africa 1.1%