Unadjusted traffic data for February 2008 showed year-on-year increases of 9.2% for passengers and 5.9% for cargo, says IATA. But, when the figures are adjusted for the impact of the leap year, passenger demand increased by a sluggish 4% to 5% and freight was even more sluggish at 2% to 3%.
Demand is still growing, but it is slowing down, says Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of IATA.
The US-European Union Open Skies Agreement took effect on March 31st, the day the figures were released. Bisignani commented that the weak US dollar and strong Asian and European economies were boosting US exports and outbound business travel. “US carriers are growing trans-Atlantic traffic in double-digit figures,” he pointed out. By contrast, the competitiveness of EU carriers was negatively affected by the strong Euro and weakened European exports.
“Trans-Atlantic competition will increase in April thanks to new route opportunities,” continued Bisignani. “Now what we need is a the full set of commercial freedoms to be able to serve those opportunities most efficiently. The Stage Two talks must address the liberalization of ownership rules so that airlines can merge or consolidate where it makes business sense. Every other industry has the opportunity to go global. Why not the airlines?” asks Bisignani.