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Asia recovers from Tsunami impact

IATA: February traffic growth slows in line with projections

February traffic growth gave mixed signals…

February traffic growth gave mixed signals. A slowing of global economic activity saw passenger traffic fall to 6.6% year-on-year from the 7.9% reported in January. The good news is that the resilience of air travel was once again demonstrated in the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami. Growth for Asian carriers returned to normal levels, partially boosted by Chinese New Year travel, said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

February passenger traffic growth of 6.6% brought year-to-date passenger growth to 7.3%. All regions reported positive growth with the Middle East and Latin America being the strongest performers. Asia Pacific largely recovered from the impacts of Tsunami, posting a 7.9% year-on-year increase for February.

Cargo slumped by 0.9% in February, although year-to-date figures maintained positive growth of 6.5%. Weaker global economic activity and a slump in Chinese imports during the Chinese New Year period are largely to blame for this.

Year-to-date load factors remained high at 72.7%. Latin American and North America led with average load factors at 74.7% and 74.8% respectively for the January-February period.

The cost of fuel continued to rise in February, mitigating the positive impacts of both growth and careful capacity management. If the average price of oil settles at US$43 per barrel (Brent) for the year the total cost of fuel to the industry will exceed US$73 billion. Clearly 2005 will be another year of industry losses, despite aggressive airline cost cutting, said Bisignani.

Consolidation in European aviation last week was a small but important step in the right direction for the industry. But we need governments that are not afraid of taking big steps that will fundamentally change the structure of the industry, said Bisignani.

The return of a discussion on the North Atlantic Open Aviation Area to the industry`s agenda is a golden opportunity for the US and Europe to lead change with liberalisation. A modern set of rules that gives airlines the freedom to do business like real businesseswithout the constraints of archaic bilateral rules and ownership restrictionshas never been more important to the health of our industry, said Bisignani.