IATA allowed that the numbers are somewhat skewed, as activity in March 2011 was impacted by the Arab Spring and the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. Cargo was inversely most affected by timing of the Chinese New Year in 2011, which lead to a stronger March of last year. This year, a freight increase that corresponded to the holiday occurred in February.
“If we discount the industry’s growth by two percentage points as a result of the extraordinary events in 2011, airlines still managed an expansion in the range of 5-6 percent,” IATA CEO Tony Tyler said in a statement. “Given the prevailing economic conditions with some European states returning to recession, passenger demand is holding up well. But this is bringing little relief to the bottom line because yields are not keeping pace with the continued very high price of oil.”
IATA reports that oil prices are hovering north of $100 per barrel. Tyler said that these sustained oil prices, which have stayed in that range for the past 14 months, are unprecedented and are hurting the profitability of airlines. Fuel prices have increased by 8 percent since January.
Asian airlines experienced the biggest drop in freight traffic in March, and European carriers also lost ground when compared to the same period last year. Middle Eastern carriers benefited from a large, 15.1-percent rise in activity, outpacing Latin American carriers (4.9-percent rise) and African carriers (3.9-percent increase). North American airlines saw a 1.6-percent, year-over-year, increase in freight traffic.