INTERNATIONAL. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today announced a -5.6% year-on-year fall in international scheduled passenger numbers for January.

The result was a full percentage point worse than the -4.6% year-on-year drop posted in December. The January fall in demand was the fifth consecutive month of contraction, IATA said.

The -5.6% drop in passenger demand outpaced capacity cuts of -2.0% driving the load factor to 72.8%. This was -2.8% below that recorded for January 2008.

The alarming collapse in cargo markets in December (-22.6%) worsened in January 2009 with a 23.2% year-on-year demand drop. This was the eighth consecutive month of contraction for freight traffic.

IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said: “Alarm bells are ringing everywhere. Every region’s carriers are reporting big drops in cargo. And, aside from the Middle East carriers, passenger demand is falling in all regions. The industry is in a global crisis and we have not yet seen the bottom.”


– IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic. IATA statistics cover international scheduled air traffic; domestic traffic is not included.
– RPK = Revenue Passenger Kilometres, measuring actual passenger traffic
– ASK = Available Seat Kilometres, measuring available passenger capacity
– PLF = Passenger Load Factor. This is % of ASKs used. In comparison of 2007 to 2006, PLF indicates point differential between the periods compared
– FTK = Freight Tonne Kilometres, measuring actual freight traffic
– ATK = Available Tonne Kilometres, measuring available total capacity (combined passenger and cargo)

Here are some key findings from the January figures:

– Asian carriers led the decline in passenger demand with an -8.4% year-on-year drop. While this was slightly better than the -9.7% contraction in December, it was positively skewed by Chinese New Year which fell at the end of January 2009 (compared with February the year before). Capacity in the region contracted -4.3%. With Japan, the region’s largest market for air travel, expected to see its economy contract by -5% in 2009, the prospects for traffic in the region remain “dismal”, IATA said.

– North American carriers posted the second-largest passenger decline at -6.2% led by a decline in trans-Pacific travel. In response, carriers withdrew -2.6% of their international capacity, clawing back some of the expansion of 2008.

– European carriers offset a -5.7% decline in demand with a -3.6% decrease in capacity. Demand decreased sharply from the -2.7% fall in December as European economies move into deep recession, IATA noted.

– Latin American carriers saw a modest decline of -1.4%. Even against a +0.5% increase in capacity, the region turned in the highest load factors at 74.9%.

– African carriers saw the demand decline slow from an average -4.0% in 2008 to -2.6% in January.

– The Middle East was the only region with a positive traffic growth (+3.1%). This is far below both the double-digit traffic growth in 2008 and the +10.8% expansion in capacity.

Bisignani continued: “The only good news is that fuel prices remain well below last year’s level. But the drop in demand is much more harmful. The industry is shrinking with revenues expected to fall by US$35 billion to US$500 billion, delivering a loss of US$2.5 billion this year.”



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