Demand for air travel around the globe dropped from 5.8 per cent growth in February to 3.8 per cent growth in March compared to a year ago according to the International Air Travel Association. The fall has been directly blamed on the earthquake which hit Japan and the continuing troubles in the Middle East.
Also being blamed is the rising price of jet fuel. Leisure passengers are being put off by a number of airlines continuing to hike their fuel surcharges.
Despite astonishing growth recently, it was airlines in the Asia-Pacific region which were hit hardest with a drop of over two per cent on last year. In the US traffic fell by one per cent and in Europe demand was down by 0.5 per cent. Japan’s domestic air travel fell by 22 per cent on the year before. Following the earthquake, and subsequent nuclear disaster, airlines cut capacity to the country. Delta Airlines, which is one of the largest international carriers to serve Japan, estimated the crisis could cost it some $400 million.
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director-general, said he expected the recovery of the airline industry to be supported by the recovery of the world’s economy, but warned that the high price of a barrel of oil was still a significant problem. Airlines around the globe are being forced to slash capacity because fuel accounts for around a third of their operating costs.
The Middle East continues to be an issue with travel demand to Tunisia and Egypt still well below what it was before the troubles started.