International scheduled traffic for November 2010 showed an 8.2% year-on-year passenger traffic growth and a 5.4% increase for freight but at a slower rate than October.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the slower rate of growth did not “necessarily signal a negative trend.”
November saw traffic growth slow from the 10% increase recorded in the passenger business and the 14.5% growth in freight in October.
“The slowdown in 2010 is partially skewed because of the exceptionally rapid rise in traffic volumes recorded during the fourth quarter of 2009.
“However, when viewed in absolute terms, air travel fell by 0.8% and air freight fell by 1.1% between October and November 2010,” IATA said.
“Even with the decline in November, passenger and freight traffic are still expanding at annualised rates of between 5% to 6% which is in line with the industry's historical growth trend,” it said.
A local analyst was unperturbed by the slight dip, saying he believed the numbers were “normalising” after a sharp recovery at the end of 2009.
“Fourth quarter is traditionally the strongest quarter for the local carriers with year-end holiday and festive seasons,” he added.
IATA said passenger load factor for November averaged 75.6% while the freight load factor stood at 55.2% for the month.
“The industry is shifting gears in the recovery cycle. Growth is slowing towards normal historical levels in the 5% to 6% range,” IATA director-general Giovanni Bisignani said in a statement.
He said the relative weakness in developed markets was being offset by the momentum of economic expansion in developing markets.
“We see a strong end to 2010 that boosted the year's profit forecast to US$15.1bil.
“Slowing traffic growth is in line with our projections for a reduced profit of US$9.1bil in 2011. That's a 1.5% margin.
“More hard work will be needed in 2011 to achieve sustainable levels of profitability,” Bisignani said.
With regard to international passenger demand, the level of international air travel is now 4% above the pre-recession peak of early 2008.
All regions, except Africa, reported slower year-on-year growth rates from October to November.
Asia-Pacific carriers saw their growth slow from 7.3% in October to 5.8% in November. Capacity expanded relatively in tandem (5.9%) for a load factor of 75.6%.
Despite the region's strong economic growth and financial performance, November traffic levels were still 2% below pre-recession levels.
Meanwhile, freight carried by Asia-Pacific carriers in November showed a 4.1% year-on-year increase.
The region's carriers moved a similar amount of freight in November than they did at the pre-recession peak of 2008.
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has yet to release its November monthly traffic and capacity statistics.
The national carrier carried a total of 724,000 international passengers in October 2010, a 9.6% increase from 661,000 passengers a year ago.
Total domestic passengers carried were 17.8% lower at 364,000 against 443,000 in October 2009.
It carried a total of 1.08 million passengers while its load factor rose to 77.1% from 75.8% previously in October.
Budget carrier AirAsia Bhd carried a total of 4.03 million from July to September while its seat load factor stood at 78% for the period.
Bisignani said the “year-end holiday season had been tough for both travellers and airlines” as exceptionally adverse weather conditions in Europe and the US resulted in travel chaos.
Passengers were inconvenienced, airlines lost revenues while costs rose, he said.
“As the backlogs of stranded passengers clear and the situation normalises, there are two opportunities that must not be lost.
“The first is to learn and apply lessons from this difficult season so that all stakeholders in the industry's infrastructure are better prepared for future exceptional situations,” Bisignani said.
“The second opportunity is to evaluate the regulatory world in which aviation operates.
“In 2010, the Icelandic volcano and the year-end adverse weather made the value of air transport crystal clear.
“Modern life and the global economy depend on aviation.
“For our part, IATA is launching Vision 2050 a dialogue on the industry's future among strategic thinkers from government, industry and academia.
“We will meet in Singapore this February with an important mission to build a vision for a successful and sustainable industry in four decades,” he added.