IATA in its latest financial monitor outlining trends for December and January sees encouraging signs through rising fares, but warns that ticket prices remain far below levels recorded by carriers in 2008 prior to the onset of the global downturn.

The association explains an upturn in load factors during the second half of 2009 helped to tighten supply-demand conditions in international markets, which resulted in higher fares. However, the uptick in fares still lags behind an improvement in passenger numbers.

IATA estimates that premium fares that plummeted 25% on international routes at the start of the second quarter of 2009 had recovered to to just 10% below prior-year levels by October. Economy fares, says IATA, were 5% lower than a year earlier.

Current fare comparisons are starting to be distorted by sweeping declines posted a year ago, says IATA, adding that an examination on a seasonally adjusted basis shows premium and economy fares are up 8% to 9% compared with low points recorded at the start of 2009.

"However, the level of average premium fares is still 20% below where it was in early 2008 and economy fares are 10% down," says IATA.

"There is still some way to go - perhaps several years - before the revenue environment can be described as having recovered," the association explains.

Despite the challenges carriers face in capturing lost revenue, oil price trends are beginning to improve. Even though oil prices spiked to more than $91 per barrel in January, IATA expects prices to moderate.

The association says markets, on balance, expect the trend of rising oil prices over the last 12 months to flatten due to new oil supplies and flat organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD) demand.

The association also supplied estimates for 2009 aircraft deliveries. IATA states operators accepted delivery of 1,245 new jets and turboprops in 2009, which exceeded storage and retirements by almost 800 aircraft.

Even as passenger seat capacity fell by 7% and freight capacity decreased 10% in 2009, IATA says the size of the in-service fleet grew by more than 3%.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news