The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released January traffic results showing that international passenger traffic for the month grew by 6.2% over the same month in 2005. International freight traffic, bolstered by renewed strength in the global economy, continued its recent recovery with 5.3% growth for January. Passenger growth was slightly below the full-year growth rate of 7.6% recorded for 2005, while freight was well above its full-year traffic growth of 3.2%.

‘The industry is on track with 2006 growth expectations of 5-6% for both freight and passenger traffic,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

‘The story for January was freight which is starting to show a definite strengthening trend following the disappointing 3.2% growth of 2005. This is the first time in a year we have seen two consecutive months of freight traffic growth above 5% which points to a resurgent world economy,’ said Bisignani. January’s 5.3% freight growth followed 5.5% growth in December 2005. Middle Eastern carriers showed the strongest freight growth for January at 9.4%. Asia-Pacific led the recovery in freight growth at 8.3%—up from 4.2% full year growth for 2005 boosted by strong growth in Chinese trade and a recovering Japanese economy.

For passenger traffic, the Middle East led all regions with an 18.3% jump in traffic. The region has posted double-digit growth in 29 of the past 31 months. Higher traffic levels have also translated into higher load factors. January’s passenger load factor was 74.6% up 1.1% from January 2005.

‘We are filling the planes’and with high load factors’but there is a lot to do before the industry’s balance sheet recovers. The industry faces several risks. The rising price of oil continues to kill our profitability. The airlines are managing capacity as carefully as they are managing costs. As the record aircraft orders of last year are delivered, matching capacity to demand will become even more critical. And Avian Flu is the wild card for 2006,’ said Bisignani.

‘Turning growth into profitability remains the challenge. Airlines are attacking costs on all fronts. Non-fuel unit costs dropped by 13% over the past four years. We expect the same efficiency from our monopoly partners’airports and air navigation service providers. Governments must grant us commercial freedoms and bring some common sense to taxation. We can ill-afford the absurd taxes on aviation that have recently been imposed in France and proposed in Sweden.’