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Middle East airlines recorded double-digit traffic growth in January, posting a 14.5% increase which is by far the largest rate of growth for any region in the world and represents a return to the rates experienced in 2010, according to Arabian Aerospace.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) global traffic results for January showing an overall 5.7% rise in passenger demand but an 8.0% decline in air freight compared to the same month in 2011.

The occurrence of Chinese New Year in January (rather than in February as in 2011) exaggerated the increase in passenger demand and the fall in air freight. Stripping this out, the underlying trend was for stronger passenger growth, while stabilised weakness in cargo markets continues.

For the Middle East, capacity rose 10.6%. Load factor climbed 2.7 points to 78.5%, among the highest of the regions.

African airlines reported a 3.6% decline in demand and a 0.8% decline in capacity, with a load factor of 64.8%, the lowest load factor among the regions. Although sub-Saharan economies are showing strong economic growth, African airlines are finding it difficult to capitalize on the trend, IATA said.

“The year started with some hopeful news on business confidence. It appears that freight markets have stabilized, albeit at weak levels. And this is having a positive impact on business-related travel. However, airlines face two big risks: rising oil prices and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Both are hanging over the industry’s fortunes like the sword of Damocles,” said IATA’s director general and CEO Tony Tyler.

In the freight sector the Middle Eastern carriers enjoyed a 9.4% rise in demand, the healthiest performance among all the regions. North American airlines’ demand dropped 4.0%. Latin American carriers’ traffic climbed 2.2% while African carriers saw a 3.7% decline compared to the year-ago period.

“Running an airline in today’s uncertain economic climate is a tough job. Some well-known names—Spanair and Malev—disappeared in January. At the same time, we know that demand for air travel will grow as the global economy recovers and requires even greater connectivity. The billions of dollars in commercial orders placed at the recent Singapore Airshow demonstrate that airlines are strategically investing to meet that demand with ever-more fuel efficient and environmentally-sustainable aircraft,” said Tyler.

Full report at Arabian Aerospace

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