By Rob Morris
Region still one of world's best performers but Jan 2009 traffic well down on previous year.
Air passenger traffic across the Middle East has been hit by the economic crisis as fewer travellers take to the skies, a report by aviation chiefs reveals.
Figures issued by the International Air Transport Association show a significant drop in traffic growth, down to 3.1 percent in January from the “double-digit growth” during the same month last year.
But the region is still performing ahead of overall international passenger demand which fell 5.6 percent year-on-year in January 2009 – the fifth consecutive decline in as many months. It is a full percentage point worse than the 4.6 percent year-on-year drop recorded in December.
“Alarm bells are ringing everywhere,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO. “Every region’s carriers are reporting big drops in cargo. And, aside from the Middle East carriers, passenger demand is falling in all regions. The industry is in a global crisis and we have not yet seen the bottom.”
“The only good news is that fuel prices remain well below last year’s level. But the drop in demand is much more harmful. The industry is shrinking with revenues expected to fall by $35 billion to $500 billion, delivering a loss of $2.5 billion this year.”
The Middle East was the only region to register traffic growth last month, with demand for Asian carriers down 8.4 percent from last year. Airlines in North America, Europe and Africa are also carrying fewer passengers as the economic crunch continues to bite.
Bisignani called on governments across the globe to stop relying on airline taxes to prop up other industries such as banking. “In 2008, even as governments delivered tax breaks to stimulate economic growth, the airline industry took on an additional tax burden of US$6.9bn,” he said.
“Give airlines the commercial freedoms that every other business takes for granted. With the world’s capital markets in disarray, archaic ownership restrictions are an unnecessary burden that must be lifted.”
Despite the declining passenger numbers for the Middle East, Dubai International Airport registered a six percent growth for January. Some 3,300,907 travellers passed through the hub compared with 3,111,188 in the same month last year.
UAE visa is now way too expensive from 160 dhs earlier it now costs me 760 dhs to get a visa for a family member. everybody thinks twice before getting visa for family members and friends have now become out of question. so certainly the travel to UAE will be down, its our own doing. make things more expensive and we will see fewer people coming in. if UAE was thinking of becoming a tourist destination things are not looking very good