Passenger and freight air traffic grew substantially in 2010 as positive economic prospects worldwide overshadowed the depressed levels of 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, according to preliminary United Nations figures.
In a report on trends compiled annually for its members, the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said the substantial growth in traffic reflects positive economic prospects worldwide – based on a forecast of a four per cent increase in the world’s real gross domestic product – and that total scheduled passenger traffic, both international and domestic, measured in passenger-kilometres performed, increased by about eight per cent year over year.
Created in 1944, the ICAO promotes the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation; setting standards and regulations necessary for safety, security, efficiency and regularity, as well as for aviation environmental protection. The 190 countries that make up the organization’s membership use the report’s findings for planning purposes, in areas such as infrastructure and plane purchases.
ICAO said that the number of passengers carried in 2010 was up 6.3 per cent over 2009, at some 2.5 billion passengers, while cargo – measured in freight-tonne kilometres performed – posted a dramatic jump of 18.9 per cent after a sharp decline of 11 per cent the previous year. The jump in cargo traffic was in with a sharp rebound in global trade and its largest increase in three decades.
International passenger traffic grew by 8.8 per cent, led by a strong rebound in business and leisure long-haul travel, particularly in emerging markets such as the so-called BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – where outgoing tourism flourished.
The largest percentage growth was registered by the airlines of the Middle East with 21 per cent, followed by those of the Asia/Pacific region with 12.9 per cent, Latin America with 11.4 per cent and Africa with 10 per cent. Traffic in the mature markets of North America and Europe grew by 6.2 per cent and 6.7 per cent, respectively. The lower growth figures relate to a larger traffic base and still represent significant increases.
Europe is still benefiting from the ability of low cost carriers to expand their point-to-point markets, due in part to the geographical enlargement of the European Union. Demand for travel remained strong and resilient despite the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which partially closed European airspace in the spring, disrupting business and leisure travel and paralyzing air cargo movements.
ICAO found that more than 100,000 flights were cancelled in 2010, including 80 per cent of the intra-European market, while nine million passengers were affected
Domestically, markets overall grew by 6.9 per cent. Rates of 1.5 per cent, 3.6 per cent and 4 per cent in North America, the Middle East and Africa respectively, were offset by rates of 15.1 per cent in the Asia/Pacific region, 15.9 per cent in Latin America and 12.2 per cent in Europe.
The recovery in cargo traffic was led by the Asia/Pacific region, with an increase of 24.8 per cent, while all regions posted double-digit growth, the highest being the Middle East at 34.1 per cent.
The two major aircraft manufacturers, Boeing of the United States and the European Airbus, are expected to have delivered more than 950 new aircraft in 2010, 40 per cent of them aimed replacing aircraft in mature markets. These energy-efficient planes will help reduce the carbon footprint of aviation on the environment and support efforts towards reversing climate.
Looking ahead, ICAO said that based on more than four per cent growth in the world economy for the next three years, it forecasts that passenger traffic will increase by 4.7 per cent and 4.9 per cent in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Oil prices, currently above $80 per barrel, remain a potential impediment to growth, although this could be mitigated by the delivery of new and more fuel efficient aircraft.