Decline in global air traffic continues, cargo hit hardest

December 31st, 2008 - 12:26 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, Dec 30 (DPA) While airlines have reduced their capacity in order to cope with the expected global economic downturn, the drop in air travel was steeper than the companies could keep up with, statistics released Tuesday showed.November saw a 4.6 percent drop in international passenger traffic, the third consecutive month of decline, and cargo fell by 13.5 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association.

In the same period, international capacity dropped by one percent, as airlines tried to cutback ahead of expected declines, but apparently not enough, and they are expected to suffer “deep losses” in the fourth quarter.

Giovanni Bisignani, the IATA director, said the cargo drop was “shocking”, and noted that air cargo handles 35 percent of the value of goods traded internationally.

This “clearly shows the rapid fall in global trade and the broadening impact of the economic slowdown”, he said in a statement.

Cargo has been in decline since the summer, when the credit crunch’s ripple affects spread across the industry.

Asia-Pacific carriers, which represent almost half of global freight, suffered the heaviest declines last month, as they are closest to the manufacturing bases.

Sending cargo by air is more expensive than shipping, and is generally reserved for high-end products, like micro-electronics or certain perishable goods, including foods and flowers.

The decline in air cargo, an IATA official said, was a sign of a continued decline in global trade and that China and India were experiencing a massive slow-down.

In regards to passenger traffic, all classes of travel were said to be affected, indicating the cutbacks in the business sector as well as in the tourism industry.

All regions of the world saw declines in November.

Earlier this month, in its 2009 forecast, the association said the industry would expect to lose $2.5 billion, calling it the worst revenue environment in half a century. Even the falling price of oil could not make up for the decline in cargo and passengers.

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