THE freefall in first and business class traffic continues to batter carriers like Singapore Airlines, with no sign of the crisis bottoming out.
So-called premium international traffic fell by 13.3 per cent in December compared with the same month in 2007. Overall, it sank 2.8 per cent for the year, despite a strong first half.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) is warning of darker days ahead, adding that the situation in Asia is especially worrying.
Premium traffic within the region fell by 25.1 per cent in December, according to new data. Trans-Pacific traffic between Asia and the United States fell by 19.7 per cent during the same period.
Iata said the higher-than-average slowdown in Asia was largely because of the importance of international trade and finance in driving business travel.
'The scale of this decline is consistent with the economic weakness seen in the region at the end of last year,' it said.
Export volumes were down in December by 20 per cent in Singapore and by 35 per cent in Japan.
The overall drop of 13.3 per cent in the premium segment compares with a 5.3 per cent decline for economy class traffic.
With jobs being lost at an increasing rate and consumer confidence falling further 'it seems that the bottom has not yet been reached for air travel and even weaker numbers may become evident in the first few months of this year', said Iata, a body representing 230 carriers worldwide.
The 'extreme weakness of demand combined with an inability to shrink capacity to match' is causing fares and yields to decline, it said.