The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released global traffic results for February 2012 showing an 8.6 per cent improvement in passenger demand.
A 5.2 per cent rise in cargo demand was also recorded, when compared to the same month in the previous year.
Several factors inflated February 2012 results and distorted comparisons with the year-ago period.
These included weaker traffic during the Arab Spring a year ago and the occurrence of Carnival in Brazil in February, a month earlier than in 2011.
Cargo demand was also subject to positive distortion by the occurrence of Chinese New Year in January which pushed some deliveries into February.
When comparing to January 2012 levels, the picture becomes much more moderate, with passenger demand growing by 0.4 per cent and cargo demand declining by 1.2 per cent.
Global passenger capacity expanded by 7.4 per cent compared to previous-year levels, lagging behind the 8.6 per cent increase in demand.
This has had a positive impact on load factors, which airlines have maintained at 75.3 per cent — better than the 74.4 per cent recorded in February 2011.
Freight demand continued to be relatively stable.
This trend started to develop in September 2011 and is consistent with improvements in business confidence.
“The outlook is fragile,” said IATA director general Tony Tyler.
“Improvements in business confidence slowed in February.
“This will limit the potential for business class travel growth and it implies that an uptick for cargo is not imminent.
“At the same time, airlines trying to recoup rising fuel costs could risk reduced volumes on price sensitive market segments.
“Weak economic conditions and rising fuel costs are a double-whammy that an industry anticipating a 0.5 per cent margin can ill-afford,” he concluded.