You might expect global passenger numbers to fall in these tough economic times but the latest news from IATA shows a surprising continuation in the trend for passenger air traffic to grow. 2012 showed a growth of 5.3% on 2011, down a fraction on the 5.9% growth seen in 2011.
The flipside of the coin, and one which isn’t unexpected, is the reduction in air cargo which fell 1.5% over the year, accelerating from a 0.6% reduction in 2011.
Industry experts say that the figures aren’t that surprising as of the increase in passenger traffic, the greatest proportion was in business travellers flying to emerging markets. This was partly offset by reductions in leisure travel, particularly to struggling destinations such as Spain
. Paralleling this was a fall in domestic air travel where alternative methods of travel proved cheaper or more convenient whilst overseas air travel gained in popularity.
Air cargo fell because much of the cargo that is traded in bad economic times lends itself more to marine transport, being bulky items – it’s usually small, high value and therefore luxury items that are transported by air.
Another interesting aspect of the increase in passenger traffic was the so called ‘Load Factor’ whereby airlines try to cram the passengers onto as few aircraft as possible. This reached record levels in 2012 and again reaching a record was the load factor for cargo.
In the passenger market this means that the scramble for tickets will get more intense and more flights will be full, long before take-off. On the ground, concentrated numbers of passengers flying will mean bigger queues at check-in, more restrictions on baggage quantity and delays at security whilst arriving at a destination will see more of a rush for taxis and car hire
meaning pre-booking of car hire before you leave will become more important. Add this to increased numbers arriving at more popular destinations and unless you’ve pre-booked a car, there’s more of a danger you just won’t get one.
You’d think that the increase in passengers and the cramming of the aircraft would mean cheaper prices for us or greater profits for the airlines but the figures also indicated that the average net profit for the airlines was only 1% of their revenues showing that many are in danger of collapsing as was seen last year with the folding of airlines such as Spanair and Malev.
So, until things pick up in the airline world, you’ll need to be prepared to be treated even more like cattle!