There are still some glimmers despite the gloom, it seems. Although there is little doubt that the world is poised for downturn, the latest projections coming out for the airline industry, if not exactly buoyant, are at least cautiously optimistic.

The new passenger forecasts from the International Air Transport Association have clearly been trimmed, but still suggest annual growth on international scheduled services averaging some 5.5% over the next five years. That hardly matches up to the rates of 7-10% over the last five years. But it still means that some 134 million more seats will be filled in 2002 than they were in 1997.

IATA expects domestic passenger growth to tick along at a more stately 4.3% annual average - more or less in line with recent history. The domestic/international figure comes in at 4.7% a year.

The Airports Council International (ACI)has also ventured into forecasting, canvassing close to 200 of its members for their views on how passenger and cargo traffic will develop through to 2010.

The airports will, after all, have to provide the capacity for any new growth, as ACI points out. Notably, the resulting forecasts are slightly more cautious than from the airlines. But medium-term estimates peg growth at the 4-5% mark.

Neither of the forecasts is exactly upbeat on Asia, or suggesting the double-digit growth that the region enjoyed until last year. Yet there are estimates of some modest growth in the medium term as the region makes the long trek back to health. It would be nice to think that they were right.

Source: Airline Business