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Tue 22 May 2007 04:53 PM

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Middle East leads the air passenger growth table

The Middle East led year-on-year air passenger growth in February with an increase of 18%, according to statistics revealed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The Middle East led year-on-year air passenger growth in February with an increase of 18%, according to statistics revealed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

This compared to international passenger traffic growth of 6.8% against the same month last year, with load factors reaching 73.3% representing a 0.5% year-on-year growth.

"Passenger demand continues to exceed expectations," explained Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO, IATA.

"And over two years of improving load factors are proof that airlines are more efficiently meeting demand," he added.

Demand for travel on African carriers rose by 9.4%, boosted by the development of new routes within Africa and to Asia and the Middle East. Elsewhere, European demand growth was up 7.4%, North America by 6.8% and demand growth in Asia increased by 5.7%.

Latin America continued to be affected by industry restructuring, according to IATA, with the continent's aviation industry posting a very modest 1.3% year on year rise in passenger demand for February.

"The numbers say it all. People want to travel," said Bisignani.

"Liberalisation is key to meeting demand for international air travel."

He said the recent US-EU agreement on open skies was "a welcome step in the right direction, giving airlines greater freedom to efficiently meet consumer demand".

"We have a new relationship in the most important bilateral market in the world. Now it is the responsibility of the US and EU to facilitate the change that this agreement needs for it to be successful. Both sides must move on to address ownership, security, and other issues," he added.

International freight transport growth fell from 3% in January to 2.4% in February, but for the Middle East, demand in this sector rocketed 15.4%, boosted by oil-led economic growth and increased capacity.

Asia recorded a 4.4% increase in air freight demand, particularly on shorter routes, but Europe, Africa and North America all witnessed a slight decline in demand growth for air freight.

Latin America saw a 20.2% decline due to industry restructuring.

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