International air passenger traffic in February rose 9.3 percent year on year but faltering business sentiment and stubborn fuel costs were cause for concern, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday.
The figures were also flattered by the timing of annual Lunar New Year holidays in Asia, Brazil’s carnival, and year-ago figures hurt by uprisings in north Africa.
“The outlook is fragile. Improvements in business confidence slowed in February. This will limit the potential for business class travel growth and it implies that an uptick for cargo is not imminent,” IATA’s Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said in a statement.
International freight rose 5.1 percent in February.
“At the same time, airlines trying to recoup rising fuel costs could risk reduced volumes on price-sensitive market segments. Weak economic conditions and rising fuel costs are a double-whammy that an industry anticipating a 0.5 percent margin can ill-afford,” Tyler said.
Passenger traffic grew more rapidly than available capacity which rose by 7.3 percent, meaning planes flew with fewer empty seats.
But international freight capacity grew faster than the actual freight traffic, so exactly half the cargo space went unused.
“Weak traffic performance has been exacerbated by new capacity arriving through wide-body passenger aircraft entering the fleet over the last several months,” IATA said.
“Nevertheless, it does appear that freight load factors have stabilised, albeit at low levels, limiting further deterioration in freight markets.”
After factoring in domestic air transport in February, passenger traffic grew 8.6 percent and freight by 5.2 percent.