Global turmoil stunts air traffic
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that the current political situation in North Africa and the Middle East is affecting passenger and cargo traffic. Although up from 2010, February numbers were well below January averages.
With the world reeling from the recent political turmoil throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s no surprise that international travel has slowed significantly. In fact, IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani reveals, it may even get worse.
“Another series of shocks is denting the industry’s recovery from the recession,” Giovanni said in a statement. “As the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia spreads across the Middle East and North Africa, demand growth across the region is taking a step back. The tragic earthquake and its aftermath in Japan will most certainly see a further dampening of demand from March. The industry fundamentals are good. But extraordinary circumstances have made the first quarter of 2011 very difficult.”
Nevertheless, February passenger and cargo demand was up a respective 6 percent and 2.3 percent since February 2010. But after contrasting this with January numbers — an 8.4 percent and 8.7 percent boom in passenger and cargo traffic, respectively — the situation looks less promising. The IATA projects that the Chinese New Year also played a part in the diminished air travel.
February brought more mixed news for air cargo. Although volumes matched those in pre-recession 2008, they were nearly 7 percent below those in May 2010. Still, IATA reports, hope is on the horizon: Confidence in airfreight is extremely high, as indicated in the purchasing managers’ index, which reached its second highest level in February. However, cargo transported by Asia-Pacific carriers dropped 4.5 percent in February while freight carried by African shippers fell 5.7 percent. As a whole, cargo transported by the region’s carriers diminished 8.4 percent from January to February.
Bisignani believes these numbers reflect the turmoil abroad. “The industry situation is volatile, and we are watching higher fuel prices carefully. Capacity increases ahead of demand are bringing down load factors for both passenger and cargo operations,” he said. “Demand is still supported by strong economic fundamentals. But with looser supply and demand conditions, it will be a challenge for airlines to recover the added costs of fuel.”