A Correspondent

‘Industry was set for turnaround after global slowdown'

Passenger demand fell by 2.4% in April

‘Early indications for May show rebound'

Nedumbassery: The large number of flight cancellations across Europe in the wake of the Icelandic volcano eruption in April arrested a turnaround of the aviation industry from the global financial crisis, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In its global traffic results for April, released this week, the agency said while passenger demand had slumped by 2.4 per cent, the growth of international scheduled cargo traffic had slowed down to 25.2 per cent — down from 28.1 per cent recorded in March.

It attributed two-thirds of the April drop to flight cancellations and the rest to cancellations due to uncertainty about the availability of flights.

It added that the currency crisis in Greece and the limited GDP growth expectations of 0.9 per cent would continue to dampen it further.

“The ash crisis knocked back the global recovery — impacting carriers in all regions.

Last month, we were within 1 per cent of the pre-crisis traffic levels in 2008. In April, that was pushed back to 7 per cent,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

He said with uncoordinated and excessive cancellations and “unfairly onerous passenger care requirements,” European carriers bore the worst and the 11.7 per cent drop in passenger demand against a growth of 6.2 per cent last month had rubbed salt into the industry's wounds. The scale of the ash crisis saw global load factors dropping to 76.9 per cent from 78 per cent while freight load factors also dipped to 55.3 per cent from 57.1 per cent.

The ash crisis also accentuated the asymmetrical nature of the economic rebound with the North American carriers posting a 1.9 per cent decline in demand while Asia-Pacific, Middle Eastern and African airlines carriers halved the pace of recovery.

However, Latin American carriers posted a 1.2 per cent increase, though a quarter of the 4.6 per cent growth recorded in March.

During the period, air freight was less impacted as the global purchasing managers' index rose to its second highest level ever.

All the freight carriers, except for Europe, recorded positive growth with the African freighters leading the way with an overall increase of 63 per cent. Meanwhile, the agency held that early indications for May would show a rebound in travel.

However, it predicted a slowdown in freight growth over the rest of the year with the end of the inventory cycle.

It also challenged Europe to reform its air traffic management and called for robust data collection and analysis and a change in the decision-making process to address issues with a sense of urgency.