Home » Maritime » Middle East woes dampen Feb air demand

INTERNATIONAL cargo and passenger traffic increased in February even as international carriers said political unrest in the Middle East dampened growth demand for both sectors.

Cargo and passenger demand grew 2.3% and 6% respectively from February 2010, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). But this is down significantly from the revised 8.4% and 8.7% expansion recorded in January for passenger and cargo traffic, respectively.

IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani said political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa cut international traffic by 1% in February. As such it is responsible almost entirely for the slip in passenger demand growth.

“Another series of shocks is denting the industry’s recovery from the recession. As the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia spreads across the Middle East and North Africa, demand growth across the region is taking a step back,” Bisignani said.

“The tragic earthquake and its aftermath in Japan will most certainly see a further dampening of demand from March. The industry fundamentals are good. But extraordinary circumstances have made the first quarter of 2011 very difficult.”

February air freight volumes stood at the same level as the pre-recession cycle peak in early 2008. But it was down almost 7% on the high reached in May 2010 at the peak of business re-stocking.

Air freight carried by Asia-Pacific carriers fell 4.5% in February. This reflects plant closures associated with Chinese New Year as well as the impact of inflation-fighting measures in the Chinese economy.

On the back of unrest in Egypt and Tunisia, cargo carried by African carriers fell 5.7%. In absolute terms, freight carried by the region’s carriers fell 8.4% in February compared to January.

North American carriers saw freight expand 11.8%, second only to the robust 12.1% expansion by Latin American carriers. European carriers showed weak growth of 6.3%, reflecting the region’s proximity and trade connections with North Africa and the continuing weakness in the European economy.

Passenger volume was 16% higher compared to the low point reached in early 2009 and 5% above the pre-recession peak of early 2008.

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