Improving figures misleading, says IATA

 FIGURES for freight traffic in September show demand is improving, although only slowly and not as much as an initial reading suggests.The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported demand for international cargo was 5.4 per cent below September 2008 levels. This compares to figures for August, which showed a 9.6 per cent drop from August last year, and July’s 11.3 per cent drop.Overall, cargo traffic is 12 per cent above the December 2008’s low point, but remains 17 per cent below the early 2008 peak. Airlines continue to carefully manage cargo capacity, which has edged up only slightly in the last two months. Load factors have risen to pre-crisis levels, which should help to correct the steep fall of 20 per cent in cargo yields.Middle Eastern carriers showed the strongest performance of any region with a 3.6 per cent year-on-year improvement.Latin American carriers also reported growth of 1.8 per cent, but this was a decline from the previous month’s growth of 3.9 per cent.Carriers in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America recorded improvements over August’s performance, but remained in negative territory at -3.1 per cent, -13 per cent and -5.0 per cent respectively. Improvements were broadly in line with improved economic activity in each region.African carriers’ cargo operations declined further into negative territory from -5.1 per cent in August to -6.9 per cent in September.However, the apparent year-on-year improvement in demand is misleading. It is largely due to comparisons with an exceptionally weak September in 2008 when cargo traffic fell sharply by 7.7 per cent. Seasonally adjusted statistics show a 1.4 per cent fall in cargo volumes for September 2009 compared with August 2009. This reflects the pause seen in the economic recovery in the US and elsewhere in the past few months.“It is far too early to call this a recovery,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and chief executive officer. “The worst may be over in terms of the fall in demand, but yields continue to be a disaster and costs are rising. The airline industry remains firmly in the red with a fragile business environment.”

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