The Association of European Airlines released traffic and capacity data for its members recently that gives a first look at the overall traffic and capacity results for 2006. AEA members boarded 343.6 million passengers during the course of the year, an increase of 14.8 million over 2005.
This translated to a growth rate of 4.5%. The more conventional measure of traffic volume, passenger-kilometers, grew by slightly more, at + 5.2%, indicating a slight increase in the average journey length.
Looking at the individual operating regions, in order of size: North Atlantic (26% of total AEA passenger-km) grew by just 0.7%. This is the second successive low growth figure on the North Atlantic, following a +2.0% in 2005.
Cross-Border Europe (23% of total) increased by 6.9%, a strong growth in the historical perspective.
Far East/Australasia (20%) grew by 9.8%. The region has been strongly and consistently in growth since the end of the SARS crisis in 2003, although the 2006 total fell short of the expected double-digit growth due to an uncharacteristically weak December result of just +4.9%. Domestic Europe (8%) posted a 2.5% increase. This market, which accounts for almost one-third of AEA passenger boardings, has significantly under-performed the cross-border segment for the last three years.
Significant among the other operating regions which make up the remaining one-quarter of AEA passenger traffic were a 12.8% growth in traffic across the South Atlantic, and reviving North Africa and Middle East markets which grew at +10.4% and +6.3% respectively.
The 5.2% traffic growth was accommodated within a capacity increase of 4.4%, which means that for the third successive year a load factor increase was recorded (0.6 percentage points to 76.5%). All the long-haul regions except Africa posted load factors in excess of 80%. Seat occupancy on the South Atlantic was a remarkable 86.3%, by a considerable margin the highest annual load factor ever recorded on any AEA operating region.
After a no-growth year in 2005, the airfreight market staged a modest recovery with a plus 2.4%. Over three-quarters of the market traveled either on the North Atlantic or to and from Asia, and these two segments showed similar growth, at 2.6% and 2.9% respectively.