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Originally published December 23, 2008 at 11:27 AM | Page modified December 23, 2008 at 5:54 PM

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Asia's international air traffic falls steeply in November

International air traffic in Asia and trans-Pacific continued a steep decline in November, a slowdown that could mean potential deferrals of jet orders from Boeing

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

International air traffic in Asia and trans-Pacific continued a steep decline in November, with the number of passengers falling almost 10 percent from a year earlier and air cargo down more than 15 percent.

The slowdown, in a region that has in recent years been an engine of aviation growth, could mean further capacity cuts by Asian carriers in the New Year and potential deferrals of jet orders from Boeing.

Figures compiled monthly by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) — a trade group that includes leading carriers All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan, Cathay Pacific of Hong Kong, Qantas of Australia and Singapore Airlines — show rapidly deteriorating passenger and cargo traffic since the summer.

In response, the airlines in the group have taken planes out of service and cut flights. But the capacity cuts have not kept pace with the slowdown; in November planes were flying with about 5 percent fewer passengers and cargo.

"The dramatic slowdown in global economic activity in the second half of the year is now reflected in sharply weaker demand for air travel and cargo shipments," said Andrew Herdman, AAPA director general. "The recent plunge in oil prices provides a measure of relief, but market conditions are expected to remain extremely difficult moving into 2009, forcing airlines to adopt additional cost-saving measures, including capacity cutbacks and deferral of planned capital expenditures."

Last month, Cathay Pacific announced that in January it will park two Boeing 747-400 converted freighters at Victorville, Calif., for a year. The carrier earlier put five 777-200s up for sale.

ANA this month put on hold its decision on ordering a new ultra-large aircraft, a choice between the Airbus A380 and Boeing's new 747-8. That leaves Boeing still searching for a second airline to order the passenger version of its latest jumbo jet.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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