This decade has been a real roller coaster
ride when it comes to the number of passengers flying on
international routes on the worlds airlines.
The fallout from
the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the SARS outbreak and the war in Iraq
and the subsequent return of travelers after things settled down
has led to big swings in the amount of passenger traffic on
international routes each year.
IATA said it
believes that 2005 might have been the year when international
traffic on the worlds airlines returned to a more normal growth
pattern for the first time since 9/11.
released in late January showed passenger traffic on international
routes grew by 7.6% in 2005. Thats actually much lower than in
2004, a year in which traffic skyrocketed by 15.3% as travel
rebounded from the start of the Iraq war and the SARS outbreak in
2003. But 2005s increase is still above the historical growth rate
of 6% a year, IATA said.
IATA also said the
increase in load factor -- the percentage of seats filled with
paying passengers -- reflected the industrys restrained response to
growth by not adding too much capacity to the system.
Obviously, the past
two years of traffic growth have not necessarily translated into
profits, especially for U.S. carriers.
There are a few
U.S. airlines that have yet to report year-end results, but IATA is
estimating their cumulative loss will reach $10 billion.
Airlines, as a
whole, produced a $1.3 billion profit in Europe and a $1.5 billion
profit in Asia in 2005. But that wasnt enough to compensate for
U.S. airline losses, so the combined results of almost all of the
worlds airlines with international service came to an estimated
loss of $6 billion.
although IATA is forecasting international traffic will grow
another 5% to 6% this year, it still is expecting a cumulative loss
of $4 billion in 2006.
already had accumulated cumulative losses of $36 billion between
2001 and 2004.
profitability are completely different concepts, said Giovanni
Bisignani, IATAs director general and CEO. The industry will not
see black ink until at least 2007.