Geneva: The sharp decline in air travel accelerated in February as global passenger volumes nosedived 10.1% below levels recorded a year earlier, the airline industry association IATA said Thursday.
The double-digit fall in passenger demand was almost twice that of the 5.6% decline recorded for January, the latest data from the International Air Transport Association showed.
Airlines were unable to cut their capacity fast enough to keep up with the slump.
“The 5.9% reduction in capacity -- the most aggressive since the crisis began -- could not keep pace with the fall in demand,” IATA said in a statement.
Freight traffic fell by 22.1% in February, in line with falls in December and January.
“Freight traffic, which began its decline in June 2008 before passenger markets were hit, has now had three consecutive months in the minus 22 to minus 23% range,” IATA added.
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general, said: “We may have found a bottom to the freight decline, but the magnitude of the drop means that it will take time to recover.”
But even as freight traffic stabilises, airlines are now feeling the squeeze in passenger traffic.
Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region posted the sharpest fall in demand, 12.8%, as export-dependent economies cut back on business and leisure travel, particular those to long-haul destinations.
Capacity cuts of 7.8% were unable to make up for the drop in demand in the region, said IATA.
North American carriers posted a 12.0% drop, while European carriers saw traffic plunge 10.1%.
Latin American airlines lost 3.8% in passnger traffic, but that was closely compensated by cuts in capacity of 2.4%.
Only Middle Eastern carriers bucked the trend with a rise of 0.4% in international traffic.
IATA on Tuesday sharply increased its loss forecast for airlines to $4.7 billion in 2009, saying it was set to be “one of the toughest years”.