December was another disastrous month for the global airline industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says global airfreight traffic plummeted by 22.6% compared to December 2007, while international passenger traffic dropped 4.6%. The international load factor stood at 73.8%.
African carriers also saw their traffic fall, despite more robust economies and travel to the continent than other regions. International passenger traffic declined 4.6% in December. The 2.1% reduction in capacity left load factors at 68.5%, the lowest among the regions.
Demand for air freight to, from and within Africa in December fell by 8%.
For the full-year 2008, international cargo traffic was down 4, passenger traffic showed a modest increase of 1.6% and the international load factor stood at 75.9%. But that 1.6% growth is a statistical anomaly and dates from before the current global crisis that set in around midyear. The figure is anyhow “dramatically down from the 7.4% growth recorded in 2007”.
IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani says the 22.6% “free fall in global cargo is unprecedented and shocking. There is no clearer description of the slowdown in world trade. Even in September 2001, when much of the global fleet was grounded, the decline was only 13.9%.
Air cargo carries 35% of the value of goods traded internationally.
Bolstered by year-end advance-booked leisure travel, the 4.6% decline in December passenger demand was less dramatic than the fall in cargo. A 1.5% cutback in supply could not keep pace with falling demand, resulting in a 2.4% decline in the December load factor to 73.8%. “Airlines are struggling to match capacity with fast-falling demand. Until this comes into balance, even the sharp fall in fuel prices cannot save the industry from drowning in red ink,” says Bisignani.