The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced full-year traffic data for 2012 showing a 5.3% year-on-year increase in passenger demand and a 1.5% fall for cargo.
The 5.3% increase in passenger demand was slightly down on 2011 growth of 5.9% but above the 5% twenty-year average. Load factors for the year were near record levels at 79.1%. Demand in international markets expanded at a faster rate (6.0%) than domestic travel (4.0%). In both cases emerging markets were the main drivers of growth.
The 1.5% fall in demand for air cargo compared to 2011 marked the second consecutive year of decline, following a 0.6% contraction in 2011. The freight load factor for the year was 45.2%.
“Passenger demand grew strongly in 2012 despite the economic bad news that dominated much of the last twelve months. This demonstrates just how integral global air travel is for today’s connected world. At the same time, near-record load factors illustrate the extreme care with which airlines manage capacity. Growth and high aircraft utilization combined to help airlines deliver an estimated $6.7 billion profit in 2012 despite high fuel prices. But with a net profit margin of just 1.0% the industry is only just keeping its head above water,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“In contrast to the growth in passenger markets the air cargo market contracted by 1.5%. The industry suffered a one-two punch. World trade declined sharply. And the goods that were traded shifted towards bulk commodities more suited for sea shipping. The outstanding bright spot was the development of trade between Asia and Africa which supported strong growth for airlines based in the Middle East (14.7%) and Africa (7.1%),” said Tyler.