Asia compensates for rest of world in air travel decline

From February 2009 to February 2010, outbound non-stop air travel from the United States remained flat, a seemingly promising sign in a travel market that’s been brutalized by global economic conditions. Take a look under the covers, however, and you can see that, for some destinations, we aren’t completely out of trouble yet.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, flights from the United States to Asia grew 9 percent year over year, which is what brought the global total up to break-even. The other outbound markets – Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean, posted year-over-year declines, which were exacerbated by the fact that these are these destinations occupy the largest part of the market. Travel to the Middle East and Asia, from the United States, showed the strongest growth.

For the first two months of the year, outbound air travel grew two percent relative to 2009, continuing the upward trajectory from July 2009. Seven of the past eight months had increases in outbound travel from the United States.

In January and February this year, five of the eight overseas regions experienced growth, with Oceana, the Middle East and Africa good for double-digit gains. Canada showed an increase of 1 percent, and Mexico was down 3 percent.

Americans may be spending more, but they’re clearly chasing deals when going on trips out of the country. In February this year, U.S. travelers on foreign carriers spent $2.2 billion, which is down 6 percent from February 2009.