Air freight traffic jumped by almost a quarter in December in a positive end to the aviation industry’s worst year, showing economic recovery is picking up steam.
However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the aviation sector would face a tough 2010 making up for the lost demand in 2009 and handling new security demands.
“The industry starts 2010 with some enormous challenges. The worst is behind us, but it is not time to celebrate,” IATA Director-General Giovanni Bisignani said in a statement.
The slump in demand in 2009, the worst year in the industry’s history, meant airlines would face another spartan year adjusting to two-and-a-half lost years of passenger growth and three-and-a-half years of lost freight growth, he said.
This would require airlines to focus on matching capacity to demand and controlling costs, he said.
In terms of demand, 2009 goes into the history books as the worst year the industry has even seen,” Bisignani said.
IATA said air cargo traffic a barometer of the strength of world trade in December was 24.4% higher than a year earlier. Its load factor, an industry measure of capacity utilisation, was 54.1.
But this year-on-year strength was exaggerated by an unusually weak December 2008, the low-point in the cycle.
For 2009 as a whole, freight demand fell 10.1% in line with the World Trade Organisation’s forecast for the contraction in global trade for a load factor of 49.1.
Passenger demand rose 4.5% in December for a load factor of 77.6 while Africa’s carriers experienced a sharp decline of 6.8% in 2009 primarily on an exceptionally weak first half.
The year ended with December demand at 3.1% above previous year levels, but for the year as a whole it fell 3.5%, giving a load factor of 75.6, IATA said, which groups 230 airlines including British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Emirates.
In a further sign of economic recovery, the Dutch CPB institute said trade in the three months ended November was 5.7% higher than in the preceding three months the biggest increase since it started tracking trade data in 1991.
The more volatile monthly figures showed trade volumes rose in November by 1.1% from October, when they increased by an upwards revised 1.4%, but were still 12% below their April 2008 peak, said the institute, whose trade data is used by the World Bank and European Commission.
Bisignani said the aviation industry would have to face tougher security requirements following an attempt to blow up a US passenger jet on Dec. 25.
Bisignani said global airlines were spending $5.9 billion a year on security measures, which were the responsibility of governments who should be picking up the bill.
IATA has forecast that airlines will lose $5.6 billion on a net basis this year after losing $11 billion in 2009.