African airlines experiencing strong growth in 2011


Africa experienced the fastest growth in air travel over the last year out of all air travel markets in the world, according to figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA reports that between January 2010 and January 2011 the African region recorded revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) growth of 14.3%, ahead of the Middle East at 11.7% and Latin America at 11%. However, with regard to freight, North America lead the pack with a freight tonne kilometres (FTK) growth rate of 14.1%, with the Middle East following with 13.8% and Latin America with 12.7%. Africa came in at 7.9%.

In terms of growth, Africa is taking over from the Middle East and Latin America, which were the two leading growth markets in 2009 in terms of passenger travel and cargo movement.

Africa experienced the highest growth rate on a year-on-year basis and the continent’s passenger traffic level is now 28% higher compared to its previous peak in early 2008. However, it should be noted that the impact of this market is relatively small as it represents about 3% of total world air traffic. On the other hand, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 28% of all passenger travel and is experiencing a 5.8% growth rate, measured between December and January.

IATA also reports that Africa was one of the most rapidly expanding air travel markets in the world during 2010, achieving expansion “of note” last year as increasing trade and investment links with Asia helped to boost the Africa to Far East market. Links with Europe are much stronger but, mainly due to the weak economic situation with Europe, premium travel from Europe to Africa rose by less than 2% and economy travel by less than 5%.

Overall, 2011 began with further increases in air travel and freight volumes. Compared to January last year, international passenger travel, measured in terms of revenue passenger kilometres, was up 8.2% by January this year. Similarly, air freight tonne kilometres flown were up 9.1%.

Compared to December, and adjusting for the increase in festive season traffic, air travel grew by 2.6% in January while air freight grew by 2.6%.

Data for January this year shows that air travel continued to grow strongly at an average growth rate of 8% over the 12 months to January 2011, and above the historical long-term trend of 5-6%.

IATA figures show strong recovery after the recession. Air travel volumes were up 18% in January this year compared to their low point in early 2009 while air freight in January was up 39% above 2009’s low point.

IATA says that prospects for 2011 are quite positive. In January, the confidence of manufacturing and service businesses, measured across major economies by Markit/JP Morgan, rose to its highest level since April 2006. This means that world trade expansion is likely to continue and air freight operations will continue to benefit from the carriage of goods shipped by air to fulfill consumer demand.