Data for March 2009 released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for scheduled international traffic shows continued declines. Passenger demand fell to 11.1% below March 2008 levels while airlines cut international passenger capacity by 4.4% resulting in an average load factor of 72.1% a 5.4% decline from March 2008.
Air freight demand, a crucial indicator of global economic activity was relatively stable but very low, down 21.4% compared to March 2008. The severe decline is at least partly driven by manufacturers seeking to correct large inventories that accumulated as the global economy slowed down in the second half of 2008. Recovery of air freight and economic activity is dependent on how quickly purchasing depletes the existing inventories.
- Carriers in Asia Pacific continued to lead the decline with a 14.5% fall in passenger demand, outstripping a 9.3% downward adjustment in capacity. Long-haul travel is particularly impacted, which is contracting faster than short-haul.
- Passenger numbers in North American declined 13.4% with US unemployment reaching 8.5%.
- German and Spanish unemployment increased to 8.6% and 17.4% respectively and dented Europe traffic by 11.6%.
- Africa and Latin Amercia continued their downward spiral.
- The on-going capacity increases (13.1%) and aggressive route building and discounting by Gulf carriers saw the Middle East as the only region to experience passenger growth in March (4.7%). There are growing doubts about the major Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways.
The stabilisation of the drop in performance numbers raises the questions — have we bottomed out ? Will there be recovery now ?
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