Massive flight cancellations spurred by the Icelandic volcanic eruption caused a 2.4% slump in international scheduled air traffic in April, says IATA.

"The ash crisis knocked back the global recovery - impacting carriers in all regions. Last month, we were within 1% of pre-crisis traffic levels in 2008. In April, that was pushed back to 7%," says IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani.

Obviously European carriers bore the brunt of the eruptions as passenger traffic in the region dropped 11.7%. "The uncoordinated and excessive cancellations and unfairly onerous passenger care requirements rubbed salt into the European industry's wounds," says Bisignani.

IATA says the drop in demand during April in Europe is attributed to both flight cancellations, roughly two-thirds of the decline, and follow-on cancellations due uncertainty surrounding the availability of air travel.

Bisginani is challenging Europe to reform its air traffic management, and calls the ash crisis an "embarrassing wake-up call for European governments. We need leadership to deliver the Single European Sky, fair passenger rights legislation and continent-wide coordination", he says.

Other global regions bore some brunt of the ash affliction as demand among North American carriers fell 1.9%, which is largely attributed to dampening demand resulting from the ash crisis on North Atlantic routes. That compares with 7.8% growth recorded in March. But the decline in April was less than half of the 4.5% decrease in North American capacity, which pushed load factors to 80.2%.

Growth continued in both Latin America and the Middle East in April, albeit at a slower pace than previous months. Latin American traffic grew 1.2% compared with 4.6% in March. The Chilean earthquake in late February depressed traffic in the region during March.

Growth in Middle Eastern traffic slowed to 13% in April compared with 25.9% in March. African carriers also saw growth slow to 8.6% in April versus 16.9% in March. In the Asia Pacific, growth slowed to 3.5% in April after traffic in grew 12.9% in March.

IATA's latest figures show international cargo traffic was less affected by the cancellations, but cargo traffic did slow to 25.2% growth in April compared with 28% the month prior.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news