INTERNATIONAL. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday that passenger demand on scheduled international airlines fell by -11.1% in March compared with the same month in 2008.
The shift in Easter from March in 2008 to April in 2009 negatively distorted this year’s numbers by about -2%, meaning an underlying fall of -9%. “This shows a continued decline from February of about 1% (after February figures are adjusted for the impact of the leap year),” IATA said.
Among the major regions, carriers in Asia Pacific continued to lead the decline with a -14.5% fall in passenger demand, outstripping a -9.3% downward adjustment in capacity. IATA said that the region is particularly impacted by the fall-off in long haul travel, which is contracting faster than short haul.
North American carriers saw a -13.4% fall in international passenger demand as travel was further discouraged by US unemployment and consumer confidence remained weak.
European airlines posted an -11.6% decline, driven by the erosion of confidence in key markets dented by unemployment, such as Germany and Spain.
African carriers showed the weakest performance in March with a -15.6% fall in demand. But IATA said they did the best job at matching capacity to demand with an aggressive cut of -15.1%.
Latin American airlines increased capacity by +2.2% as demand fell by -5.9%. Travel to and from Central America and from Latin America to North America was particularly weak, IATA said.
The Middle East was the single bright light with growth of +4.7% in the month, a sharp improvement from the +0.4% rise in February. But this was out of balance with the +13.1% increase in capacity, IATA noted.
“The global economic crisis continues to reduce demand for international air travel,” said IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani.
IATA estimates that international revenues in March will be impacted with a decline of up to -20%. “Airlines cannot adjust capacity to match demand. Load factors have dipped sharply from last year. All of this is hitting revenues hard,” said Bisignani.
“The only glimmer of hope is that cargo demand has stabilised this month although at the shockingly low level of -21.4%,” said Bisignani.
For the fourth consecutive month international cargo demand is hovering in the -21% to -24% region as a result of the sharp drop in world trade. “It’s not the end of the recession, but we may have found the floor,” said Bisignani.
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