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International Air Traffic Disappears in September

It was less than a month ago that I wrote about softening international August traffic numbers. Now September numbers are out, and they are downright ugly. IATA calls them "alarming," and sadly this may just be the beginning.

Looking at August numbers we were getting anxious that traffic (measured by revenue passenger kilometers) was up only 1.3% year over year. Well, in September, traffic actually declined 2.9% and cargo dropped a precipitous 7.7%. Remember that relatively robust 5.2% growth in international traffic for American carriers? This month, it dropped to a negative 0.9%. Even Middle Eastern traffic was down 2.8%.

On the capacity side, available seat kilometers were actually up 1.1% thanks to growth from Asian and Middle Eastern carriers. All those A380s heading for the Middle East aren't looking so hot right now. In fact, the Middle East had the lowest load factor of the group, and was the only one to fall below 70%. It was 69.5%.

This slowdown will likely hit American carriers particularly hard. They had been fleeing from domestic flights into the international world. But now that the international world is seeing dramatic slowing, it will certainly make it more challenging for American carriers to continue to sustain their capacity overseas.

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