Industry Monitor - keeping you abreast of air transport trends

20 February 2018

The wake of 9/11 saw great volatility across markets and across the air industry.

The sudden drop in demand for flying came as a surprise”, says David Marsh, Head of Forecasts and Network Intelligence. “The attacks were a catalyst for an economic sea-change. De-regulation is often given as the main change that enabled low-cost airlines to transform short-haul travel. Maybe, but the business mayhem after Sep 11th was also an opportunity that some seized. Airlines which had expanded rapidly, taken on debt, bought competitors, made huge aircraft orders on the assumption that demand for business-class travel was heading exponentially upwards, were suddenly looking at nothing but red on their balance sheets, in urgent need of a new business model. Their responses were sharp: grounding aircraft, sacking staff, cutting flights, or failing.”

In the face of the uproar in the market, STATFOR, EUROCONTROL’s statistics and forecasting unit took its usual approach in the face of uncertainty: methodical, focused on data. And so, the Industry Monitor began humbly as a 60-word email to four STATFOR colleagues, summarising what was known so far about the changes in the market: “United, Northwest, American all cutting capacity by 20%; nothing so far in Europe; booking firm Amadeus reporting a 74% reduction in ticket sales for US airlines 11-14 Sep…”.

The news kept on coming, faster and faster, with the team issuing its third update (the first to be officially called the ‘Industry Monitor’) just three days later. And the news kept on coming, with news items initially submitted by colleagues and compiled by the team.

In the intervening 16 years, the IM has matured into a popular monthly digest of trends, selected with the key underlying goal of helping STATFOR forecast traffic. And it has helped us improve our accuracy, as David stresses:

After 18 issues of IM in February 2002, we published the medium-term forecast drawing partly on over a year of analysis, and predicted around 10.4 million flights would be handled in the CFMU Area, as it was then called, in 2008. Now we know that the actual figure was around 10.2 million flights. Getting within 2% at a horizon of 6 years was pretty good in the circumstances!

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