Demand for international air travel grew by 16.5% in April, according to the latest figures released by the International Air Transport Association (Iata).
Although the association cautioned that the month-on-month yearly comparison was skewed by last year’s closure of European airspace due to volcanic ash it said the April figure was 7% higher than in pre-recession 2008.
The increase in demand was met by a 16.8% uplift in capacity led by strong performances in north America, Europe and the Middle East.
Giovanni Bisignani, Iata’s director general and chief executive, said: “Demand improved significantly in April. Eliminating all distortions, we are growing at 3-4%.
“International traffic is now 7% above the early 2008 pre-recession levels, load factors are hovering around 77% and business confidence is high. Unfortunately two things are spoiling the party - demand shocks and high jet fuel prices.
“Despite the enormous restructuring over the last decade, the industry is not shock-proof. Profits are being squeezed by the succession of crises and shocks that have marked the first four months of this year.
“Their impact on demand will continue to ease as we move into the second half. But maintaining the high load factors needed to support profitable growth will be difficult given the ongoing challenge of matching capacity to volatile demand.”
Iata figures did show load factors fell slightly from 76.8% in April 2010 to 76.7% in April this year despite domestic markets’ market demand outpacing capacity at 4.7% and 3.1% respectively pushing up load factors in this sector to 78.8%.
The Iata report said: “Utilisation of seats improved significantly in April after large falls in February and March due to various demand shocks. While a downward trend is still visible, a load factor of 76.7% means that half of the 4 percentage point decline since mid-2010 (when profits peaked) has been recovered.”
Middle Eastern carriers saw a 12.1% increase in international traffic in April, more than double the level in March (5.3%) and Iata said although the month saw unrest in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen this had had minimal impact.
Demand from international passengers in the US (+11.9%) easily outstripped domestic demand (+1.2%) and Latin America carriers were said to have benefitted from “dynamic trade growth” in the region.
African carriers reversed a decline in March as the impact of the political unrest in Tunisia and Egypt subsided. Carriers saw a modest 1.2% growth compared to a 7.1% decline in March.
Iata said: “While the number of flights operated to/from Egypt and Tunisia is down by about a quarter compared to last year, about half of February’s 18% loss in traffic in these two markets has been recovered.”
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