Volcanic ash cloud hurts airline recovery: IATA

27th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

International passenger traffic slumped 2.4 percent in April as flight cancellations due to a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland slammed the brakes on recovery, airline association IATA said Thursday.

"The ash crisis knocked back the global recovery -- impacting carriers in all regions," said Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association.

"Last month, we were within one percent of pre-crisis traffic levels in 2008. In April, that was pushed back to seven percent," he said.

European carriers bore the brunt of the disruption from the volcanic ash cloud, with traffic dropping 11.7 percent in April.

Bisignani said this "could not have come at a worse time" for the region.

"Europe's slow recovery from the global financial crisis and its currency crisis are already a huge burden on the profitability of its airlines," he noted.

"The uncoordinated and excessive cancellations and unfairly onerous passenger care requirements rubbed salt into the European industry's wounds," said Bisignani, reiterating his criticism of the way European governments had handled the ash cloud crisis.

The impact was felt beyond Europe, with North American carriers reporting a 1.9 percent decline in April as north Atlantic routes were also hit. This marked a sharp drop from the 7.8 percent growth posted for March.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their traffic growth slow to 3.5 percent from 12.9 percent in March.

Middle Eastern carriers reported growth of 13 percent, African carriers' traffic was up 8.6 percent while Latin American airlines recorded an increase of 1.2 percent. All were significantly slower growth than in March.

Cargo traffic suffered less, with growth slowing to 25.2 percent from 28.1 percent in March.

"The ash crisis was a shock. While there is always a danger of the consequences of renewed volcanic eruptions, the impact on passenger confidence should be limited," Bisignani said.

"Unfortunately, we are trading ash for two additional uncertainties -- strikes and a growing currency crisis -- both of which are also focused on Europe," he added.

He stressed that it was the wrong time for employees to ask for pay hikes or improved conditions, describing such demands as a "divorced from reality."

© 2010 AFP

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