Air traffic growth slowed in November, according to latest figures from IATA.

International scheduled passenger traffic for the month showed 8.2% year-on-year growth, down from a 10% increase in October.

“The slowdown in 2010 is partially skewed because of the exceptionally rapid rise in traffic volumes recorded during the fourth quarter of 2009,” the organisation said.

“However, when viewed in absolute terms, air travel fell by 0.8% between October and November 2010.

“This slower growth does not necessarily signal a negative trend. Even with the decline in November, passenger and freight traffic are still expanding at annualized rates of between 5-6% which is in line with the industry’s historical growth trend.”

IATA director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said: “The industry is shifting gears in the recovery cycle. Growth is slowing towards normal historical levels in the 5-6% range.

“Relative weakness in developed markets is being offset by the momentum of economic expansion in developing markets.

“We see a strong end to 2010 that boosted the year’s profit forecast to $15.1 billion.”

But he added: “Slowing traffic growth is in line with our projections for a reduced profit of $9.1 billion in 2011. That’s a 1.5% margin.

“More hard work will be needed in the new year to achieve sustainable levels of profitability.”

The level of international air travel is now just 4% above the pre-recession peak of early 2008. All regions, except Africa, reported a slowing in year-on-year growth rates from October to November, IATA said.

 

Europe’s carriersrecorded 7.3% growth in passenger traffic, below the 9.4% recorded in October. The downturn was attributed to industrial action and adverse weather conditions at the end of November.

“The year-end holiday season has been tough for travellers and for airlines,” admitted Bisignani.

“Exceptionally adverse weather conditions in Europe and the US resulted in travel chaos. Passengers were inconvenienced. Airlines saw lost revenues and saw costs rise.

“As the backlogs of stranded passengers clear and the situation normalises, there are two opportunities that must not be lost. The first is to learn and apply lessons from this difficult season so that all stakeholders in the industry’s infrastructure are better prepared for future exceptional situations.

“The second opportunity is to evaluate the regulatory world in which aviation operates.

“In 2010, the Icelandic volcano and the year-end adverse weather made the value of air transport crystal clear.

“Modern life and the global economy depend on aviation. Whether you are a business person operating in the global market, families keeping in touch across distances or heads-of-state on important foreign missions, aviation is critical.

“While memories of the travel chaos are still fresh, it’s time to evaluate a long list of government imposed industry handicaps, including excessive taxation, out-dated ownership restrictions, over-regulation where market forces could do better, under-investment in infrastructure and generally poor regulation of monopoly suppliers.

“We must not let governments forget all of this while waiting for a change of seasons,” said Bisignani.