The decline is the largest on record for the industry and reflects the one percent drop in the world gross domestic product for the year, the first negative growth of the global economy since the great depression of 1929. In 2001, passenger traffic fell by 2.9 percent, due in part to the terrorist attacks of 11 September on the United States.
International traffic fell by about 3.9 percent while domestic traffic fell by 1.8 percent. Total (international and domestic) traffic declined in all regions except for the Middle East, where carriers posted a strong 10 percent growth.
The double-digit domestic passenger traffic growth in the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America, and the relative strong performance of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, helped curtail the severity of the decline in total traffic.
Capacity offered by airlines, expressed in available seat kilometres (ASKs), declined by 3.1%, in response to the declining traffic.
In line with the improving economic situation in many parts of the world, a moderate recovery is expected for 2010 with a 3.3 percent traffic growth forecast. The momentum is expected to continue in 2011, on the way to full recovery and traditional growth trends of 5.5 percent per year.
In 2009, cargo traffic plummeted by 15 percent in terms of total freight tonne kilometres (FTK) compared to 2008, significantly worse than the 6.2 percent drop in 2001. The magnitude of the change is also indicative of the huge decrease in world trade volumes in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.
The cargo traffic of Asia Pacific carriers, which accounts for some 36% of global FTKs, declined by around 14 percent, while traffic of European and North American carriers that each account for 25% share of global FTKs dropped by some 18% and 17% respectively.