Figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have revealed a 5.7 per cent rise in passenger demand in January this year, but an eight per cent decline in air freight 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 air freight.
Stripping this out, the underlying trend was for stronger passenger growth, while stabilised weakness in cargo markets continues.
“The year started with some hopeful news on business confidence,” said IATA director general Tony Tyler.
“It appears that freight markets have stabilised, 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,” he added.
Total January passenger demand rose 5.7 per cent compared to January 2011 a slight acceleration from the 5.6 per cent year over year increase recorded for December 2011.
With January passenger capacity up 4.2 per cent, average load factor rose 1.1 percentage points to 76.6 per cent compared to the same month a year ago.
Freight markets stood at eight per cent below January 2011 levels.
The decline in air freight stabilised in the fourth quarter of 2011, at levels four per cent below the 2008 pre-crisis peak.
There was a 2.5 per cent 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 per cent year over year, and freight load factor fell to 41 per cent (from 44.3 per cent in January 2011) as deliveries of new widebody passenger aircraft offset measures to reduce freight capacity.