Geneva: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released scheduled international traffic numbers for February 2011, which showed increases of six- and 2.3-percent respectively for passenger and cargo demand compared to February 2010.
February demand growth was down significantly from the revised 8.4- and 8.7-percent expansion recorded in January for passenger and cargo traffic, respectively. The political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa during February is estimated to have cut international traffic by about one percent.
In addition to the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, the more dramatic fall in cargo growth (from 8.7 percent in January 2011 to 2.3 percent in February) was affected in part by factory shutdowns due to the Chinese New Year, which fell in the first part of February.
“Another series of shocks is denting the industry’s recovery from the recession,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO. “As the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia spreads across the Middle East and North Africa, demand growth across the region is taking a step back. The tragic earthquake and its aftermath in Japan will most certainly see a further dampening of demand from March.”
February marked a decline in load factors in the cargo and the passenger business. Freight load factors have deteriorated even faster to 51.6 percent. This is four percentage points below their peak in May 2010, on a seasonally adjusted basis.
February freight volumes stood at the same level as the pre-recession cycle peak in early 2008. But it was down almost 7 percent on the high reached in May 2010 at the peak of business re-stocking. The industry’s fundamentals are strong. Business confidence, as measured by the purchasing managers’ index, reached its second highest level ever in February.
Airfreight carried by Asia-Pacific carriers fell by 4.5 percent in February. This reflects plant closures associated with Chinese New Year as well as the impact of inflation-fighting measures in China. In terms of volumes, this had the largest impact in slowing global growth to 2.3 percent—the weakest growth since the beginning of the third quarter in 2009. Compared to January, freight carried by the region’s carriers fell by 6.6 percent.
Cargo carried by African carriers fell by 5.7 percent. In absolute terms, freight carried by the region’s carriers fell by 8.4 percent in February compared to January. North American carriers saw freight expand by 11.8 percent, second only to the 12.1 percent expansion by Latin American carriers. European carriers showed weak growth of 6.3 percent, reflecting the region’s proximity and trade connections with North Africa and the weakness in the European economy.