The aviation industry has been given its cleanest bill of health yet post downturn, with news from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that both passenger and cargo air traffic grew strongly last month.
Passenger demand was up 9.5%, while cargo demand grew 26.5%, compared to February 2009 when the market for traffic hit rock bottom during the global economic recession.
According to IATA, passenger demand must recover by a further 1.4% to return to pre-crisis levels. Cargo hit bottom in December 2008, with little improvement realized by February 2009. Cargo traffic, which plunged much further than passenger demand, has a further 3% to recover in order to return to pre-crisis levels.
“We are moving in the right direction. In two to three months, the industry should be back to pre-recession traffic levels. This is still not a full recovery. The task ahead is to adjust to two years of lost growth,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
European carriers posted the weakest growth at 4.3%, as a result of sluggish home economies, rising unemployment and strikes. North American airlines also posted weak growth of 4.4%. Consumers continue to pay down debt rather than increase spending, keeping demand for air travel comparatively weak.
Asia-Pacific carriers posted strong traffic growth of 13.5%, which was partly boosted by the timing of the Chinese New Year. Compared with the mid-2009 low there has been a 19% rebound.
Middle Eastern airlines recorded traffic growth of 25.8% - the strongest of any region. Travel markets continue to develop within the region creating new demand.
Successful competition on long-haul connections to Asia over Middle Eastern hubs has improved market share for the region’s carriers.
Latin American carriers posted growth of 8.5% on the strength of the performance of the region’s economies.
African airlines have also benefited from strong local economies with a 9.8% growth.
However, capacity is also coming back fast (+9.2%) so airlines in this region continue to see the weakest load factors.