IATA's March figures hint at stabilising freight market

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IATA data for March indicates that freight traffic has stopped falling, although levels remained 21.4% down on 2008's figures.

Passenger traffic was down by 11.1% for the month while airlines cut international passenger capacity by 4.4%. The average passenger load factor dropped by 5.4 points to 72.1%.

IATA says revenues for the month will decline by up to 20%. "Airlines cannot adjust capacity to match demand," says IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani. "Load factors have dipped sharply from last year. All of this is hitting revenues hard."

He describes the apparently-stabilised freight figures - which IATA attributes to manufacturers' balancing sales to inventory - as a "glimmer of hope" but adds that the traffic is still "shockingly low".

"It's not the end of the recession, but we may have found the floor," he states.

North American, European and African carriers respectively posted international passenger demand falls of 13.4%, 11.6% and 15.6%.

Latin American carriers recorded a 5.9% fall but Middle Eastern operators claimed growth of 4.7% in March, although this was far below their 13.1% capacity hike.

While IATA says that the new concern over the outbreak of swine influenza could have a "negative impact" on business if passenger confidence is affected, it states: "It is still too early to judge what the impact swine 'flu will have on the bottom line."