Global traffic heavily down again in January: IATA

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Figures for January released by IATA show passenger and air freight traffic heavily down again, dropping 5.6% and 23.2% respectively.

The sharp fall in air freight was even deeper than the 22.6% drop in December and marks the eighth consecutive month of contraction for freight traffic.

"Alarm bells are ringing everywhere," says IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani. "Every region's carriers are reporting big drops in cargo."

Passenger traffic fell 5.6% in January. This marks a fifth consecutive reduction for passenger traffic and is even steeper than the 4.6% fall seen in January.

"Aside from the Middle East carriers, passenger demand is falling in all regions," says Bisignani.

Passenger demand fell mostly sharply among Asian carriers, with traffic down 8.4%. While this was less than the near-10% fall in December, IATA notes the figures are positively skewed by the Chinese new year holiday falling at the end of January, rather than February the previous year.

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North American carrier traffic was 6.2% down, led by a decline in transpacific travel. European traffic was down 5.7%, African fell 2.6% and Latin American carriers saw traffic down 1.4%.

While Middle Eastern carrier traffic grew 3%, this is still far below the double-digit growth of 2008 and the near 11% additional capacity.

Overall capacity cuts failed to keep pace with falling demand. Passenger capacity was cut 2% in January, prompting a near three-point drop in year-on-year passenger load factor for January of 72.8%.

IATA adds: "Manufacturers are still shedding inventory and cutting production which is expected to lead to further falls in freight volumes."