According to data compiled by IATA, global airline traffic results for March 2012 show total passenger demand rose 7.6 per cent and freight demand climbed 0.3 per cent compared to the same month last year.
Comparisons with March last year are affected by events that depressed passenger demand in 2011, including the issues in parts of the Middle East, which disrupted travel in the Middle East and North Africa beginning in February 2011 and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011 that impacted air travel across the Asia Pacific region.
IATA estimates that the year-on-year rise in air travel in March was about two percentage points higher than it would otherwise have been in the absence of these events.
Cargo demand, meanwhile, was affected by the timing of the Chinese New Year, which occurred in January this year - leading to stronger February shipments - but took place in February 2011 - leading to stronger March 2011 shipments and weaker year-on-year comparisons. Compared to February 2012, March air cargo demand was significantly stronger by 2.2 per cent.
“If we discount the industry’s growth by two percentage points as a result of the extraordinary events in 2011, airlines still managed an expansion in the range of five to six per cent.
“Given the prevailing economic conditions with some European states returning to recession, passenger demand is holding up well.
“But this is bringing little relief to the bottom line because yields are not keeping pace with the continued very high price of oil,” said IATA director general Tony Tyler.
Oil prices have remained stubbornly above $100/barrel (Brent crude) for the past 14 months.
“In 2008, oil prices rose from $90/barrel in January to a peak of $147/barrel in late July. But by November, they had fallen back to less than $50/barrel.
“We have not seen such sustained high oil prices previously. Jet fuel prices have risen eight per cent since January.
“Considering that fuel now accounts for 34 per cent of average operating costs, it’s an increase that hurts,” concluded Tyler.