The Association of European Airlines has released traffic and capacity data for its members in August 2006.
AEA noted that the figures need to be viewed in the light of the dramatic tightening in security in week 32, and consequent schedule disruptions, but also the fact that the August 2005 baseline was itself depressed by serious industrial unrest (the 'Gate Gourmet' action).
These two factors in conjunction served to obscure the imprint of the disruptions on the bottom-line traffic and capacity figures. Year-on-year capacity increase was 4.3%, in line with the year-to-date trend, although traffic growth was slightly depressed at +4.0%. However, focusing on two-year growth rates shows August at 9.5% higher than in 2004, compared to a consistent growth of between 12% and 14% in the previous months of the year.
This weakness was most evident in the North Atlantic market, as well as in the much smaller Mid and South Atlantic flows. No significant disturbance to Far Eastern traffic was evident, although the growth trend continued to decline slightly from the very high levels earlier in the year.
A further factor influencing traffic was the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Traffic volume on Middle East routes - measured in passenger-km - was up 1.5%, compared to a year-to-date of plus 6.2%. Passenger numbers to and from the region, however, were down 4.9%.
For only the second time in 2006, monthly load factor decreased, by 0.2 points to 80.0%. The biggest reductions were sustained on Middle East and North Atlantic, at 4.3 and 3.1 percentage points respectively. Nevertheless the industry remained on track for a further annual improvement, with the year-to-date up 0.8 points.