Middle East airlines carried 157.9 million passengers in 2013, marking an increase of 8.8 per cent over the figures for the previous year, said the International Air Transport Association ( Iata).Globally, airlines carried 3.129 billion passengers on scheduled services, an increase of 5.1 per cent over 2012, added the 58th edition of the World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) published by Iata, a leading yearbook of the airline industry’s annual performance containing extensive statistical information and analysis.“Commercial aviation began 100 years ago with a single airplane, a single passenger and a single route,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general and CEO.“Last year, as recorded in the WATS, the industry carried more than 3 billion passengers and nearly 48 million tonnes of cargo on nearly 100,000 flights per day, while the real price of air travel fell by 7.4 per cent. Aviation’s annual contribution exceeds even these impressive figures.“Its global economic impact is estimated at $2.4 trillion and it supports 3.4 per cent of global GDP. By value, over a third of goods traded internationally are delivered by air and some 58.1 million jobs are supported by aviation,” he added.Asia-Pacific (1.012 billion passengers,) led the regional ranking with 1.012 billion passengers, an increase of 9.3 per cent, followed by Europe with 825.9 million passengers, up 3.4 per cent over 2012.While North America claimed the third rank with 818.9 million passengers, up 0.7 per cent over 2012, African airlines recorded a 5.6 per cent increase with 73.8 million passengers.UAE was ranked the top country in the Middle East  based on passengers carried (total both-ways, international and domestic), with 45.3 million passengers in 2013, an increase of 11.7 per cent.South Africa topped the Africa region with 20.4 million passengers, a decline of 0.1 per cent compared to 2012.The US is still the largest single air market in the world, in terms of total two-way traffic, international and domestic, the Iata report said, adding that Delta Air Lines topped the list of total scheduled passengers carried with 120.6 million.The top three city-pairs listed by WATS based on passengers carried on international routes were Hong Kong-Chinese Taipei (4.9 million, down 11.5 per cent), followed by Dublin-London (3.6 million, up 6.9 per cent) and Jakarta-Singapore (3.4 million, up 8.6 per cent).CargoGlobally, cargo experienced weak growth with freight tonne kilometers up only 1.8 per cent compared to 2012. However, this represents a reversal of the 1.1 per cent shrinkage over 2011, said the Iata report.The top three airlines ranked by total scheduled freight tonnes carried were Federal Express (7.1 million), followed by UPS Airlines (4.1 million) and Emirates (2.1 million).Airlines added over 1,100 direct airport-pair services and 600,000 frequencies in 2013, for a new total of 50,000 direct airport-pair services and 31.5 million frequencies.The price of air travel in real terms fell by 7.4 per cent compared to 2012. The cost of shipping goods by air in real terms fell 7.1 per cent.Fuel consumption represents about 2 per cent of all fossil fuels burned worldwide for all purposes, or about 12 per cent of the total amount of fossil fuels consumed by all transportation. The average price of jet fuel in 2013 decreased by 3.9 per cent compared to 2012.Total estimated cost of fuel was $210 billion or 31 per cent of airline operating costs. Between 2005 and 2013, fuel efficiency improved by 11 per cent.Iata (International Air Transport Association) represents some 240 airlines comprising 84 per cent of global air traffic.