ANALYSIS: January traffic provides solid start to 2012

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Figures for the first month of 2012 show airline passenger traffic largely growing in line with relatively cautious increases in capacity.

Load factors across Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America were all up in January over the same months in 2011.

"We watch the numbers incredibly carefully but so far we are not seeing anything to worry one," says Sandy Morris, analyst at Jeffries International. "Generally we are not seeing any of the warning signs we saw in late 2007 or the first half of 2008."

For North American carriers, where continued capacity discipline helped the sector enjoy a second consecutive year of profitability in 2011, a tight grip was kept on capacity in January

Virtually all the majors trimmed capacity over the same period last year, and even those carriers that did grow faster where largely able to fill the additional capacity.


Load factors for all but a handful of North American carriers grew in January over the same month last year – over a point higher than the same month last year.

Morris points to the strong performance of the North American carriers – JetBlue for example enjoying traffic growth of 13% - with the only potential alarm surrounding Southwest Airlines. "They showed good traffic growth through 2011 and then December and January were much softer. If that January number started to roll on through the year we'd start to be more perplexed,” he says.

For all the worrying economic headlines in Europe, load factors among the region’s carriers were also largely improved in January, with traffic growth outpacing the limited extra capacity brought into the market. Morris notes the focus on the European debt crisis masks the fact that many areas are showing economic growth.


Asia-Pacific continued to enjoy strong growth, almost 7% in January just keeping ahead of additional capacity. Growth among Chinese carriers, such as Air China and China Eastern Airlines, was particularly robust in January.


Access the Monthly Airline Traffic landing page here.