Air Freight Declines In H2 2011

February 3, 2012

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Air freight traffic at European airports declined in the second half of 2011 to end flat year-on-year in December, industry data showed, confirming a slow-down in the continent's economic activity.

By contrast, airports body ACI Europe said passenger numbers rose by 8.3 percent in December compared with a year earlier, but it was pessimistic about the prospects for 2012.

"In almost all EU markets, the growth in passenger traffic (in 2011) strongly outperformed GDP growth," ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said in a statement.

"The odds are that 2012 will be a different story. Economies have come to a standstill in many parts of Europe with the sovereign debt crisis, which is also having a ripple effect on growth prospects elsewhere. This will affect demand for air transport."

Air freight traffic, a closely watched indicator of economic health, increased at the start of last year before turning negative in the second half of the year, and grew just 1.4 percent overall compared with 2010.

Passenger traffic grew by 7.3 percent last year.

Both year-on-year comparisons were inflated by the impact of the volcanic ash crisis and harsh winter conditions in 2010, which hit demand, ACI Europe said.

When adjusted to take account of these impacts, passenger and freight traffic grew by 5.2 and 0.6 percent respectively in 2011, it said.

Rising fuel costs and the inclusion of aviation in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from this year will increase air fares and weigh on demand, ACI Europe said.

International airlines could face severe losses this year if the euro zone's debt crisis turns into a full banking crisis, airline industry body IATA said in December.

(Reuters)