Air Cargo Traffic Continues to Decline

Nov. 30, 2009
Air cargo traffic has been on the decline for 14 consecutive months

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), an industry trade organization for U.S. airlines, reports that passenger revenue, based on a sample group of carriers, fell 15% in October 2009 versus the same month in 2008. This marks the 12th consecutive month in which passenger revenue has declined from the prior year, fueled primarily by the 11th consecutive month of ticket price declines. The study is based on data reported to the ATA by Alaska, American, Continental (including Micronesia), Delta (including Northwest), JetBlue, United and US Airways, as well as other regional carriers.

Three percent fewer passengers traveled on U.S. airlines in October, while the average price to fly one mile fell 13.5%. Passenger revenue declines extended beyond the domestic United States, particularly in trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific markets.

“With U.S. unemployment surpassing 10% in October, these results for air travel demand come as little surprise,” says James May, president and CEO of the ATA. “Economic conditions suggest that pressure to generate revenue will remain intense for the foreseeable future.”

Also reflecting a weak global economy is the continued decline in cargo traffic. U.S. airlines saw cargo revenue ton miles decline 3% year over year (2% domestically and 4% internationally) in September 2009, the 14th consecutive month of declining volumes. October 2009 cargo data is not yet available. The air cargo study is based on data reported to the ATA by Aloha, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta (including Northwest), FedEx, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, United, UPS and US Airways.

Annually, commercial aviation helps drive $1.1 trillion in U.S. economic activity and more than 10 million U.S. jobs. On a daily basis, U.S. airlines operate nearly 28,000 flights in 80 countries, using more than 6,000 aircraft to carry an average of two million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo.

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