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Air traffic growth picks up

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport was busier in November (photo by 1000 words)
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport was busier in November (photo by 1000 words)

The global demand for air travel picked up in November 2012, according to the latest data from IATA.

Results for the month showed a 4.6% increase in passenger traffic compared to November 2011 – faster than the 2.9% year-on-year growth experienced in October. Average cabin load factors also improved, rising one percentage point to 77.3%.

“November brought some positive signs for air transport demand,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director-General & CEO. “Passenger markets have held up better than cargo in the face of adverse economic conditions. But the current level of air travel is just 2% higher than at the start of 2012. This is considerably weaker than the long-term average growth rate.” 

Asia Pacific carriers experienced the strongest growth among the major regions, with demand up 6.2% year-on-year, on a capacity increase of 2.5%. Some of this growth however, reflected depressed results in 2011 owing to flooding in Thailand. Load factor rose sharply, up 2.6 percentage points to 75.7%.

North American airlines’ demand was up 2.6% compared to November 2011, marking a significant upturn in fortunes for the region. North America has seen some of the slowest growth rates in 2012, largely a result of tight capacity management. Capacity climbed 0.4% in November, pushing load factor up 1.6 percentage points to 79.6% – the highest of any region.

European carriers saw demand grow 4.0% compared to November 2011, while capacity climbed 0.8% and load factors averaged 77.8%, up 2.3 points. In the Middle East, demand expanded 10.5% compared to November 2011, continuing a year of strong growth. This was outstripped however, by an 11.2% capacity increase, which resulted in the load factor falling 0.5 points to 73.5%. Latin American carriers posted demand growth of 11.0% compared to November 2011, while African airlines saw demand expand 5.0%.

In terms of domestic markets, Chinese demand grew 7.7%, but load factors fell 1.9 percentage points to 79.1%. In the US, demand for air travel was up 1.1%, but capacity expanded 2.7% leading to a 1.3 percentage point drop in load factor to a still industry-leading 82.1%. India’s problems continued with demand falling 6.5%, while in Japan traffic grew 4.4% year-on-year.

“The recently-ended holiday period serves as a reminder of the value aviation provides. Travel made possible by aviation brought seasonal goods to markets and reunited friends and families around the globe to celebrate,” said Tyler. “But continued connectivity growth is not guaranteed. The industry’s expected margin in 2013 of 1.3% is very weak. Furthermore current returns on investment are less than half the industry’s cost of capital, which continues to erode shareholder value.”

IATA has forecast that air traffic will increase 4.5% in 2013.

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