Release Date:
Release ID: 838

Cargo Plummets 22.6% in December

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released international scheduled traffic results for both December 2008 and the full-year.

Press Release

In the month of December global international cargo traffic plummeted by 22.6% compared to December 2007. The same comparison for international passenger traffic showed a 4.6% drop. The international load factor stood at 73.8%.

For the full-year 2008, international cargo traffic was down 4.0%, passenger traffic showed a modest increase of 1.6%, and the international load factor stood at 75.9%.

“The 22.6% free fall in global cargo is unprecedented and shocking. There is no clearer description of the slowdown in world trade. Even in September 2001, when much of the global fleet was grounded, the decline was only 13.9%,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.” Air cargo carries 35% of the value of goods traded internationally.

Bolstered by year-end advance-booked leisure travel, the 4.6% decline in December passenger demand was less dramatic than the fall in cargo. A 1.5% cutback in supply could not keep pace with falling demand, resulting in a 2.4% decline in the December load factor to 73.8%. “Airlines are struggling to match capacity with fast-falling demand. Until this comes into balance, even the sharp fall in fuel prices cannot save the industry from drowning in red ink,” said Bisignani.

“Yields are also under attack with a sharp drop in November premium traffic,” said Bisignani. For November, IATA reported an 11.5% drop in the number of premium tickets issued globally.

Freight Traffic

* Full year international air freight traffic contracted 4.0% for the year compared to 4.3% growth in 2007.

* December saw an unprecedented 22.6% decline in air freight volumes, compared with the previous year. All regions showed major declines.

* The collapse in the airline industry’s freight business is a reflection of 20-30% declines in export and import volumes being reported across Asia, North America and Europe as the global recession plumbs new depths in December.

* Asia-Pacific carriers, accounting for 45% of international cargo, led the December decline with a 26.0% contraction compared to the previous year. Latin American carriers saw cargo drop 23.7%; North American carriers 22.2% and European carriers 21.2%. Single-digit declines were recorded by Middle Eastern carriers (-9.2%) and African carriers (-8.0%)

“2009 is shaping up to be one of the toughest years ever for international aviation. The 22.6% drop in international cargo traffic in December puts us in un-charted territory and the bottom is nowhere in sight. Keep your seatbelts fastened and prepare for a bumpy ride and a hard landing,” said Bisignani.

Airlines registered a US$5 billion loss in 2008. For 2009 IATA is forecasting a further loss of US$2.5 billion based on a fuel price of US$60 per barrel, a decline of 3.0% in passenger volumes, a drop of 5.0% in cargo traffic and yield deterioration of 3.0%. Industry revenues are expected to contract by US$35 billion (from US$536 billion in 2008 to US$501 billion in 2009).

In the face of this economic crisis, IATA is calling for major structural changes to the industry. “We don’t want bail-outs. But we need to change the ownership rules. Almost every other business has the freedom to access to global capital and the ability to merge across borders where it makes sense. To manage in this crisis, airlines need the same management tools,” said Bisignani.


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