2 February 2011

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported full-year 2010 demand statistics for international scheduled air traffic that showed an 8.2% increase in the passenger business and a 20.6% increase in freight. Demand growth outstripped capacity increases of 4.4% for passenger and 8.9% for cargo services. The average passenger load factor for the year was 78.4%, which is a 2.7 percentage point improvement on 2009. The freight load factor saw a 5.2 percentage point improvement to 53.8%.

Compared to the pre-recession levels of early 2008, December 2010 air travel volumes were 4% higher. Air freight was 1% higher than pre-recession levels; however volumes have fallen 5% since the peak of the post-recession inventory re-stocking boom in early 2010.

Severe weather in Europe and North America in December 2010 put a dent in the industry’s recovery. It is estimated that this shaved 1% off total traffic demand for the month. As a result passenger demand dipped to 4.9% growth on December 2009 levels, significantly lower than the 8.2% growth recorded in November. Hardest hit was Europe, which saw December growth slow to 3.3%.

International passenger demand

  • Asia-Pacific carriers recorded a 9% year-on-year increase in passenger demand in 2010. While December 2010 passenger demand growth slowed to 2.9%, it is 11% higher when compared to December 2008, just ahead of the industry’s 9-10% improvement over the same period. The economies of China and India continue to lead the region’s recovery.


  • European carriers saw year-on-year passenger demand increase 5.1%. This is double the capacity increase of 2.6%, which shored-up the passenger load factor at 79.4%. However, the continent’s economic uncertainty and continuing debt crisis limited yield improvements. Moreover, Europe was the hardest hit by December’s severe weather, which slowed demand growth to 3.3%, less than half the 7.8% growth recorded in November.


  • North American carriers recorded year-on-year increases in passenger demand of 7.4% in 2010. A key feature in 2010 was the capacity discipline, where full-year capacity was up by just 3.9% (leading to a sharp recovery in profits). The passenger load factor at 82.2% for the full year (up from 79.6% in 2009) may prove difficult to maintain if capacity additions accelerate over the period ahead. Passenger demand in December increased 6.7%.


  • Middle Eastern carriers reported the strongest full year growth at 17.8% on the back of a 13.2% capacity increase fuelled largely by aircraft deliveries to Gulf-based airlines. Load factors for the region showed a 3-percentage point increase to 76.0%. December demand was 14.1% above previous year levels and 35% higher than in December 2008, illustrating the structural shift that is taking place in the industry as a result of the region’s expansion.


  • Latin American carriers saw the whole year demand grow 8.2% despite a 1.1% decrease in December, a reflection of the demise of Mexicana. However, the reality is that for 2010 overall, the total is almost 8% more than 2008.


  • African carriers experienced a sharp rebound of nearly 12.9% in 2010, although load factors remained well below the industry average, at 69.1%. Their year ended with December demand at 11.7% above previous year levels.