International air passenger traffic gathers tailwind

New Delhi, Mar 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2007, 05:30am hrs
International air passenger traffic continued to grow during February, registering a year-on-year increase of 6.8%. In January, growth was 6.1%, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The demand for international freight rose 2.4% after a 3.0% increase in January -- continuing an eight-month trend of slow growth. Average international passenger load factors were 73.3%, up 0.5% year-on-year.

Passenger demand continues to exceed expectations, Giovanni Bisignani, IATAs director-general and CEO said, adding, And over two years of improving load factors are proof that airlines are more efficiently meeting demand.

West Asia continued to lead all regions with a year-on-year passenger demand growth of 18%. African airlines saw an above-average 9.4% increase in demand, boosted by development of new routes within Africa and to Asia and West Asia. A stronger-than-expected economic growth drove demand up in Europe (7.4%), North America ( 6.8%) and Asia (5.7%). Latin America continues to be affected by industry restructuring with just a 1.3% rise in passenger demand in February.

The air freight demand rose sharply in West Asia (15.4%), encouraged by oil-led economic growth and increased capacity. However, high fuel costs and strong competition from other modes of transport continue to limit freight demand in Europe (- 0.6%) Africa (-2.0%) and Asia (4.4%), particularly on short-haul routes.

North American airlines saw freight growth decline 0.5% in February compared with 6% in 2006 as the impact of last years redeployment of capacity to international markets decreased. Latin America saw a 20.2% decline due to restructuring.

Globally, the airline industry is performing well. IATA has revised its forecast for industry losses for 2006 from $1.7 billion to just $0.5 billion. According to the association, if it were not for $6-billion restructuring costs at the US-based Delta and Northwest Airlines, the whole industry would have been in profit despite oil prices were being expected to average $66 a barrel, increasing the fuel bill by 23% to $112 billion this year. In 2007, the industry is expected to report net profit of $2.5 billion.