International Air Transport Association
For Immediate Release                                                                   Date: 02 July 2008     No: 36




Air Freight Growth Dips Sharply

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released international traffic data for May that showed a significant drop in cargo growth to 1.3% while passenger traffic grew 6.0%.

At 1.3%, cargo demand is considerably down from the 4.3% recorded for the full year 2007. For the first five months of 2008, air freight volumes were up 2.8%. The biggest cause of the slow growth came from a 0.5% contraction in Asian carrier traffic. This resulted from the impact of the earthquake in China and weakness in the Japanese economy. Asian carriers also saw weakness in transpacific markets with increased competition from US carriers taking advantage of the weak US dollar.

International passenger demand grew 6% in May. This is slower than the 7.4% increase recorded for the full year 2007, but stronger than expected given the economic downturn. The results were skewed by a shift in the US of 1.7 billion available seat miles (2.72 billion available seat kilometers) from domestic routes to international routes (a 7.9% rise in capacity in international markets). North American carrier international traffic grew 8.2%, while domestic capacity fell 3.3%. Overall the underlying growth rate in global domestic and international traffic was 3 to 4% (down from an average of 6% for 2007).

International load factors rose slightly for the first time in three months to 74.3% on slower capacity growth of 5.4% during the month.

“The high price of oil is re-shaping the industry. The major shifts in traffic flows experienced during May reflect this,” said Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

During May jet fuel averaged US$160 per barrel - 87% higher than the same time in 2007. By comparison, crude prices averaged US$123 per barrel - an 81% increase. “Jet fuel margins are increasing the impact of skyrocketing oil prices for the aviation industry. Unit costs are up 20-30% and that is going to take its toll on the bottom line. Efficiency everywhere is the imperative. That must be understood by governments, labour and our industry partners,” said Bisignani.


  • North American cargo traffic grew 4.6% as US carriers shifted capacity from domestic to international routes. In addition to expanded transpacific opportunities, the US-EU Open Skies agreement created new opportunities in Europe.
  • Europe recorded a sluggish 1.4% increase. The strong Euro is damaging competitiveness for both European exports and the European air cargo business.
  • Latin America freight volumes contracted 13.2%. Industry restructuring saw the replacement of retiring wide-body aircraft with narrow-bodies with limited cargo capacity.
  • Africa recorded its 11th month of air freight contraction out of the past 12 months with a fall of 6.5% during May as industry restructuring removes freight capacity.
  • The lone bright spot was the Middle East where volumes rose 10.7% on the back of oil-based economic growth.


  • Airlines in Latin America continued strong growth of 13.6% reflecting robust commodity-driven economic growth in the region. 
  • Middle Eastern airlines expanded their traffic 12.8%, lower than the 18.1% increase achieved for the full year 2007 due to slower economic growth in origin-destination regions using Middle East airports as connecting points. 
  • The further decline in traffic carried (-2.2%) and capacity provided (-5.1%) by African airlines  reflects a loss of market share and the reduction of unprofitable capacity in the face of high and rising fuel prices.
  • Reversing the trend of the previous three months, load factors rose slightly in May to 74.3% as high fuel prices are forcing cuts in capacity and the retirement of older aircraft.

View full May traffic results 


 - IATA -



Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic.
  • Explanation of measurement terms:
    • RPK: Revenue Passenger Kilometres measures actual passenger traffic
    • ASK: Available Seat Kilometres measures available passenger capacity
    • PLF: Passenger Load Factor is % of ASKs used. In comparison of 2008 to 2007, PLF indicates point differential between the periods compared
    • FTK: Freight Tonne Kilometres measures actual freight traffic
    • ATK: Available Tonne Kilometres measures available total capacity (combined passenger and cargo)
  • IATA statistics cover international scheduled air traffic; domestic traffic is not included.
  • All figures are provisional and represent total reporting at time of publication plus estimates for missing data.
  • International passenger traffic market shares by region in terms of RPK are: Europe 32.7%, Asia Pacific 32.6%, North America 18.8%, Middle East 9.1%, Latin America 4.5%, Africa 2.3%
  • International freight traffic market shares by region in terms of FTK are: Asia Pacific 46.1%, Europe 25.9%, North America 17.2%, Middle East 7.4%, Latin America 2.2%, Africa 1.1%  

International Air Transport Association
For Immediate Release                                                                    Date: 24 September 2008 No: 43




Priorities For Indian Aviation

New Delhi - “The global crisis resulting from high oil prices and declining traffic is hitting India hard.  Growth has slowed from 33% in 2007 to 7.5% for the first six months of this year. And the last two months have been negative. Indian carriers could post US$ 1.5 billion in losses in 2008, the largest outside the US.  Urgent action is needed to help Indian carriers weather the perfect storm of high costs and falling demand,” said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Bisignani identified three priority areas – reducing costs, improving infrastructure, and adopting global standards – in his address to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). 

Costs: “India is among the most expensive places on the planet to buy aviation turbine fuel (ATF). In August, it was 58% more expensive to buy fuel in Mumbai (for domestic flights) than in Singapore (for international). Excise duties, throughput fees charged by airport operators and state taxes of up to 30% for domestic flights result in a cost structure that cannot support a competitive industry. Removing excise tax, implementing a standard 4% state tax for domestic fuel and greater transparency in overall pricing are urgently needed,” said Bisignani. 

Bisignani took note of India’s Service Tax on premium class tickets, overflight, landing and airport charges.  “Taxing overflight charges breaches India’s international obligations under the Chicago Convention.  Taxing premium class tickets and airport charges is contrary to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) resolution 8632 calling for reductions in taxes.  These are embarrassments for a country that is a long-standing member on the ICAO Council.” 

Bisignani also questioned the lack of transparency in India’s airport and air traffic control costs.  There is an estimated 20% over-collection for air traffic control, while international operations are charged 33% more than domestic flights to land at India’s airports. “India must not waste any more time in establishing an effective Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) to achieve cost efficient infrastructure and bring India’s charges in line with ICAO charges policies,” said Bisignani.

Infrastructure: “Infrastructure investments are urgently needed. While Delhi is moving towards the capability of handling 100 million passengers, the situation at Mumbai remains critical. There is no possibility to build an additional parallel runway. The Greenfield site under consideration with a phase one capacity of 10 million passengers a year will provide some relief, but it is not a serious long-term solution. Mumbai needs an airport that can adequately serve the financial capital of the world’s second most populous nation. That means thinking much, much bigger. We must use the breathing space of the current downturn to plan for capacity in the 100 million passenger range for Mumbai, like airports in Delhi, Seoul, Hong Kong, Dubai and other important cities,” said Bisignani.

Standards: “Global standards have played a crucial role in the development of air transport and should be at the heart of India’s aviation policy and commercial development.  But India has taken a major diversion in security.  The non-standard data transmission requirements for Advance Passenger Information (API) is an added cost burden that provides no additional benefit.  This is a serious flaw for India’s API at a time when increased cooperation is needed,” said Bisignani.

Bisignani also called on India to take a leadership role in shaping aviation policies, including environment and commercial freedoms.  “In a few years, Asia Pacific will be the largest single aviation market. India is a key driver of that growth. India’s enormous size makes it an important market. It also gives it a responsibility to take a leadership role on policy issues. India must be a strong voice for a global solution on the environment, as envisioned by Kyoto. And it must look beyond its borders to be a strong voice for global change and greater commercial freedoms,” said Bisignani.

“I am an India optimist, but my biggest concern is speed. Aviation is a fast-changing industry that is fueling much of the Indian economic success story. But the crisis is highlighting that India’s decision making is too slow. India is not just a great market. It must also be a great leader. Minister Patel has done a great job in liberalising the industry and setting the wheels in motion for the rapid development of aviation in India. The benefits are clear: connecting business to markets, expanding tourism and creating jobs. Now it is the responsibility of entire government to follow up by addressing the issues of today’s crisis with quick decisions based on global standards and build a solid platform for future expansion,” said Bisignani.

View Giovanni Bisignani's speech

- IATA -




Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic.