By Andy Sambidge
Japan, MENA crises hit region's airlines but growth still ahead of global average, says IATA
Middle East carriers saw year-on-year demand growth fall from to 5.6 percent in March but it was still ahead of the global average, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Tuesday.
Compared to February, demand was up by 0.1 percent while capacity expanded by 0.8 percent. This pushed the load factor down 0.6 percentage points to 73.2 percent, IATA added in a statement.
The disruptions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) cut international travel by 0.9 percentage points.
Egypt and Tunisia experienced traffic levels 10-25 percent below normal for March while military action in Libya virtually stopped civil aviation to, from and within that country, IATA added.
It said Middle East carriers reported year-on-year freight demand increases in March of 10.1 percent.
Globally, IATA reported that year-on-year growth in passenger demand had slowed to 3.8 percent from the 5.8 percent recorded in February.
Conversely, year-on-year growth in freight markets rebounded to 3.7 percent in March from the 1.8 percent recorded the previous month.
Compared to February, global passenger demand fell by 0.3 percent in March, while cargo demand expanded by 4.5 percent.
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director general and CEO, said: "The profile of the recovery in air transport sharply decelerated in March. The global industry lost 2 percentage points of demand as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)"
He said the impact of the events in Japan on global international traffic was a one percent loss of traffic in March, with Asia-Pacific carriers seeing the biggest traffic loss of over two percent.
Japan's domestic market was the most severely impacted with a 22 percent fall in demand.
IATA said the second quarter was likely to see continued depressed air travel markets due to the events in Japan and MENA.
However, strong underlining economic growth trends should support recovery in both passenger and cargo markets in the second half of 2011, it added.
Bisignani said: "The big uncertainty is the price of oil. Even in the $120 a barrel range, it appears that strong economic growth in markets outside of Europe is continuing...But many leisure travelers are putting off flying because of the impact of high oil prices."For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.