IATA: Global Airline Fleet Grew In April

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Adrian Schofield adrian_schofield@aviationweek.com

New deliveries outweighed aircraft retirements by a large margin in April, which is helping slow the rate of international capacity reductions, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The international airline fleet actually expanded by more than 100 aircraft in April, IATA estimates in a new report. There were 27 aircraft retired, but 30 were taken out of storage and returned to service, and there were 109 new deliveries. This is a reversal of the trend seen late last year, when retirements and parked aircraft exceeded new deliveries.

Capacity on international routes was down 2.5% in April, a smaller year-on-year reduction than the 4.4% cut in March. Looking ahead, IATA does not see the capacity reductions increasing. "The published schedules do not suggest any future acceleration in the resizing of the industry in the face of the recession," the report says.

Load factors on international routes were at 74.4% in April, an improvement from previous months but still down compared to April 2008. The month-to-month pickup was caused by improving traffic trends rather than capacity cuts. The traffic "bounce" was due to fare cuts, which put further pressure on yields.

Financial markets, however, seem to be positive about the airline industry. The Bloomberg global airlines index is up 8% so far in May, IATA reports. This indicates that "markets continue to anticipate a moderate economic recovery." While U.S. airline stocks were generally flat, Asia-Pacific and European carriers saw average increases of 9%-10%. IATA notes, however, that airline stock values are still 50%-60% below 2007 levels.

With about 50 carriers reporting so far, the industry's net loss for the first quarter net loss is up to $3.3 billion, IATA says. By far the largest share of this loss is attributable to European airlines.

Photo credit: Benet Wilson

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