Sector outlook

Continued growth in air traffic

In connection with global economic growth, IATA’s forecast for 2012 is for growth of 4.4 per cent in total worldwide passenger numbers (previous year: 5.7 per cent) and of 5.2 per cent for international passenger traffic (previous year: 6.5 per cent). Average growth in international traffic is predicted to go up to 5.8 per cent p.a. by 2015, which would put it slightly above the long-term mean. Airlines are expecting to break the barrier of 3 billion passengers worldwide in 2013.

Developments in air transport markets will nonetheless continue to differ from region to region. According to IATA the fastest growth in international passenger traffic in the period 2011 to 2015 is expected in the Middle East, with an average annual rate of 7.9 per cent.

Substantial growth is also forecast for international passenger traffic in the regions Asia-Pacific and Africa. This strong expansion will make Asia in particular an important driver of passenger traffic in the years to come. Comparatively moderate growth rates are still projected for European and North American markets.

Airfreight traffic recovering

After slowing sharply to a rate of just 1.7 per cent in 2011, growth in airfreight traffic should pick up again smartly, driven by the emerging markets. IATA is forecasting freight growth of 4.5 per cent for 2012. On this forecast international airfreight demand will rise to an average of 4.7 per cent per year by 2015. In airfreight too, the fastest growth between 2011 and 2015 will be in the Middle East and South America, whereas forecast growth rates for other markets are more modest.

Profitability in the airline industry remains meagre

In view of the gloomier outlook for the world economy, IATA is expecting profits for the airline industry to fall to USD 3.5bn in 2012 after reaching USD 6.9bn in 2011. These earnings are to stem primarily from airlines in the Asia-Pacific region with profits of USD 2.1bn. Carriers from North and South America, the Middle East and Africa are set to see a slight decline in profitability compared with last year. IATA is forecasting a steeper fall for the European airlines in 2012, whose profits are expected to contract from USD 1.0bn to USD –0.6bn. If attempts to solve the sovereign debt crises should fail, IATA is predicting a recession for the euro area, which could result in losses of up to USD 8.3bn for the airline industry worldwide.

Development of sector net result (bar chart)