The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global traffic results for January showing a 5.7-percent rise in passenger demand but an 8.0-percent decline in airfreight compared to the same month in 2011. The occurrence of Chinese New Year in January (rather than in February as in 2011) exaggerated the increase in passenger demand and the fall in airfreight. Stripping this out, the underlying trend was for stronger passenger growth, while stabilized weakness in cargo markets continues.
"The year started with some hopeful news on business confidence. It appears that freight markets have stabilized, albeit at weak levels. And this is having a positive impact on business-related travel. However, airlines face two big risks: rising oil prices and Europe's sovereign debt crisis. Both are hanging over the industry's fortunes like the sword of Damocles," said Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and CEO.
Total January passenger demand rose 5.7 percent compared to January 2011, a slight acceleration from the 5.6 percent year-over-year increase recorded for December 2011. With January passenger capacity up 4.2 percent, average load factor rose 1.1 percentage point to 76.6 percent compared to the same month a year ago.
Freight markets stood at 8 percent below January 2011 levels. The decline in airfreight stabilized in the fourth quarter of 2011, at levels 4 percent below the 2008 pre-crisis peak. There was a 2.5-percent fall in global freight markets from December to January, but this is almost totally attributable to the impact of factory closures due to the Chinese New Year. Freight capacity contracted by 0.6 percent year over year, and freight load factor fell to 41 percent (from 44.3 percent in January 2011) as deliveries of new widebody passenger aircraft offset measures to reduce freight capacity.
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