International Air Traffic Slows - IATA

December 30, 2010

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International air traffic slowed in November, the airline industry body IATA said on Thursday, in a sign that the global economic recovery is losing speed.

The International Air Transport Association said harsh weather conditions in many countries in December were weighing on business.

"The year-end holiday season has been tough for travellers and for airlines," IATA director-general, Giovanni Bisignani, said in a statement. "Airlines saw lost revenues and saw costs rise."

Bisignani repeated IATA's recent profit forecast for the industry, saying a strong end to 2010 overall should lift profits to USD$15.1 billion. Slowing traffic growth was in line with projections for a reduced profit of USD$9.1 billion in 2011.

"The industry is shifting gears in the recovery cycle," Bisignani said.

"Growth is slowing towards normal historical levels in the 5-6 percent range. Relative weakness in developed markets is being offset by the momentum of economic expansion in developing markets," he added.

The air traffic numbers are in line with other signs that the global recovery from economic crisis is losing speed. The International Monetary Fund expects 4.2 percent global growth next year, which would be a step down from 2010 but well above the recession-hit rates of the previous two years.

Air freight -- an important indicator of trade and economic recovery -- grew by 5.4 percent in November from a year ago, well below the 14.5 percent rise recorded in October.

Freight traffic, which accounts for 35 percent of the value of goods traded internationally, is now at the pre-crisis levels of early 2008, said IATA, which represents 230 airlines.

Passenger demand -- a reflection of business and consumer confidence -- was 8.2 percent higher in November than a year earlier, below October's 10 percent rise, and is now 4 percent above pre-crisis levels.

Air traffic growth slowed significantly in all regions with the exception of Africa, IATA said. Freight levels remained well below their pre-crisis levels in North America and Europe.

(Reuters)