Five years of surging growth in international air traffic came to a halt in September, when 2.9 percent fewer passengers boarded international flights compared with September 2007, the International Air Transport Association said today.
Load factors were down 4.4 points to 74.8 percent in a system with more capacity than ever.
"The deterioration in traffic is alarmingly fast-paced and widespread," said Giovanni Bisignani, the trade group's director. This is the first time since the short-lived SARS crisis in 2003 that global traffic has dropped month-on-month.
Steady 5 percent monthly growth rates on the all-important North American routes -- where U.S. domestic carriers have vastly increased capacity and made big bets on long-term growth -- "turned into a 0.9 percent contraction" in September, the group said.
Even the booming Middle Eastern business took a major hit. After years of double-digit month-on-month growth, passenger traffic on Middle Eastern carriers dropped 2.8 percent.
And my opinion is: This just gets worse. It does not get better for a long, long time. Our domestic and global air-transport systems are undergoing fundamental change.