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Wed 27 Jan 2010 01:12 PM

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Mideast carriers see 11% growth amid 'worst year ever'

Region's airlines continue to buck trend with 19% passenger growth in Dec.

The Middle East witnessed overall air passenger growth of 11.2 percent in 2009, by far the highest in the world, according to the latest data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released on Wednesday. By contrast, global passenger demand slumped by 3.5 percent in the last 12 months (with an average load factor of just over 75 percent), led by drops of 5.6 percent in Asia Pacific, 5 percent in Europe and 5.6 percent in North America. Latin America stayed largely flat with yearly growth 0.3 percent, while Africa sank 6.8 percent. “In terms of demand, 2009 goes into the history books as the worst year the industry has ever seen. We have permanently lost 2.5 years of growth in passenger markets and 3.5 years of growth in the freight business,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA director general and CEO.

In December, the Middle East saw a powerful 19.1 percent increase in passenger traffic, driven by the larger share of long-haul activity being attracted to the region’s strategically placed hubs.

Elsewhere overall demand was up 4.5 percent, still 3.4 percent below the aviation industry’s early 2008 peak, with the Asia Pacific region witnessing the next best improvement, at 8 percent. On the freight front, Middle Eastern carriers ended the year at 7 percent above the early 2008 peak. Global freight demand sank buy 10.1 percent during the course of the year.

Asia Pacific carriers, which account for around 45 percent of the international airfreight market, improved through the year but still remained 8 percent below the peak level. December saw global freight demand increase by 24.4 percent over the same month last year, although these figures are exaggerated as the low point in the cycle was December 2008.

“Revenue improvements will be at a much slower pace than the demand growth that we are starting to see. Profitability will be even slower to recover and airlines will lose an expected $5.6 billion in 2010,” said Bisignani.

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