IATA: International Passenger Traffic Improving

International air travel improved in October, led by gains in economy class, according to a Monday report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).


Airlines

IATA said Monday international travel was up a modest 0.2 percent over October 2009, led by a 1.3 percent uptick in economy class. First-and business-class travel were off 9.3 percent over the same period a year ago, but the tally beats September, when premium travel was down 13.5 percent.

Airlines globally, including Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc., have been stung by the continued weakness in international travel, particularly in lucrative premium seats.

IATA said “total passenger numbers are now about half way to restoring the fall seen in 2008.”

“Although the year-on-year comparisons are now being distorted because of the big falls in air travel that began in September last year, there was nonetheless a rise in numbers from September to October for both economy and premium travel,” IATA said. “A stronger rise in world trade in recent months appears to be associated with a modest rise in business travel. Although the previously rising trend in consumer confidence has levelled off, which is a concern for travel markets, there has been a stronger rise in economy travel.”

Delta said last week it expects capacity to be flat in 2010 compared with 2009, but 7 percent lower than in 2007. For the fourth quarter of 2009, Delta said revenue would grow 7 percent as the economy improves modestly.

Last week, IATA revised its financial outlook for 2010 to an expected $5.6 billion global net loss, larger than its previously forecast loss of $3.8 billion.

For 2009, IATA maintained its forecast of an $11 billion net loss.

Premium and economy figures are up 6 percentage points from their respective lows for the current downturn, but much lower than early 2008 levels, IATA said.