Global air traffic falls by 10%

By Administrator |

There were no surprises whatsoever yesterday when ACI World released its passenger traffic figures which show a 10% fall in February, with freight flights also down by 20%. Curiously, the second figure is almost of

more concern than the first since it is a gloomy barometer reading on the slump in international business that is currently being felt throughout the world. The extent of the passenger decline merely mirrored that of January.

ACI World describes the setback in passenger numbers as 'substantial in all regions' with the exception of international passenger traffic in the Middle East and domestic traffic in Asia Pacific (+1%). The association said: ‘Several factors should be taken into account in analysing February results. Firstly, 2008 was a leap year and the 29th additionally fell on a Friday, which is a busy travel day.

‘This phenomenon may contribute as much as a 4% variation. Month-over-month comparisons for China were affected by two additional factors: Chinese New Year fell in January this year, whereas it was in February last year, and a major snowstorm snarled traffic early in February in 2008.’

Adding his comments, ACI Director Andreas Schimm said: ‘Removing the extraordinary factors, the downward trend has not been further aggravated in February and there is hope that these figures might be the worst we will see this year. March traffic will lose the effect of Easter traffic, with Easter coming in April this year as opposed to March in 2008, yet there are indications that adjusted March traffic declines could be milder and that the first quarter of 2009 may be close to the bottom of the trough.’

International passenger traffic fell by -11.3% in February 2009 compared with the same month in 2008 and this represented a -9.1% drop on year-to-date figures when January 2009 is included and a 0.9% fall in 12-month rolling year-to-date terms.

By comparison, domestic passenger traffic fell by 9.4% in February 2009, with year-to-date numbers (including January 2009) down -8.3% and rolling 12-month year-to-date numbers down by -3.9%. Both international and domestic traffic worldwide fell by -10.3% in February and by -8.7% in the 2009 calendar year to date. In the rolling 12 months to February 2009, total global air passenger traffic fell by -2.6%.

Meanwhile, freight traffic fell again for the third month in a row in February, with reductions of around 20% worldwide compared to the same months in 2008. These figures mirror the record export declines that have occurred across the world. As with passenger traffic, there is a leap year adjustment of up to 4% to apply.

ACI said: ‘Domestic freight contraction in Asia Pacific has slowed compared to January 2009, whereas air freight volumes in the rest of the world have continued the downward slide month on month. A positive in the picture is renewed demand that lifted domestic freight in China by almost 4%.

‘International freight dropped by a third at important hubs including Narita, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Taipei, and at Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Incheon traffic fell by 20%. Europe and North America markets shrank by about 25% and Latin America/ Caribbean declined by 34%.

Schimm comments: ‘In light of the leap year adjustment, there is cautious hope that we are currently passing the bottom of the freight downturn. However, the plateau that freight is currently experiencing could well extend a bit longer, and it will be a long and rocky road to reach volumes seen in the first half 2008.’

(ACI's membership consists of 597 bodies operating at more than 1,679 airports in 177 countries and territories. In 2007, ACI members handled 4.8bn passengers, 88.6m metric tonnes of freight, and 76.4m aircraft movements).

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