Airline traffic up 5.9%
GENEVA, 2 February 2012: Global airline passenger traffic rose 5.9% last year despite weak conditions, the International Air Transport Association said Wednesday, with 2012 likely to be difficult for the industry.
“Given the weak conditions in Western economies the passenger market held up well in 2011,” IATA said in a statement, describing the year as one of contrasts.
“Healthy passenger growth, primarily in the first half of the year, was offset by a declining cargo market,” it said.
Passenger traffic in December rose 5.4% compared to the same month in 2010.
“But the trend since mid-year has clearly slowed, as travel markets react with a lag to the declines in confidence that weakened cargo in the second half of 2011,” IATA said.
The emerging markets of Brazil, India and China all showed double-figure growth in traffic for both passengers and freight, while Japan declined 15.2% as a result of the earthquake in March.
“Cautious improving business confidence is good news. But 2012 is still going to be a tough year,” IATA’s director general and CEO, Tony Tyler, said in the statement.
He noted that airlines transport about 3 billion people a year and that more than a third of the value of goods traded internationally is transported by air.
“Improving business confidence and encouraging news from the US economy are heartening developments,” Tyler said, but warned that the eurozone crisis was far from over.
“Failure to achieve a durable solution will have dire consequences for economies around the world. And it would most certainly tip the airline industry into the red,” he said.
IATA reported that the weak euro had “ironically” aided business travel demand but that taxes and a restrictive approach to aviation policy left European carriers with the weakest profitability in the major regions of the industry.
Latin American airlines showed the biggest regional gains with a 10.2% rise in international passenger traffic in 2011, supported by healthy domestic economic conditions and trade activity with North America and Asia.
European carriers came second, with international passengers carried rising by 9.5% in 2011.
The Asia-Pacific, the largest international cargo market and a major centre of manufacturing activity, saw freight fall 4.8% but the region’s international passenger traffic rose 4.1%.
By December the Japanese domestic market had recovered to levels five % below pre-earthquake levels.
African airlines saw international passenger numbers fall 0.7% for December but they were up 2.3% for the full year.
IATA said the relatively weak performance was in part due to the “civil unrest in a number of North African countries.”
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