Middle Eastern carriers saw passenger traffic increase by 18.6 percent in the first four months of this year over the same period in 2011, leading the global growth in passenger demand, according to latest statistics released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 
In April the region’s airlines recorded 16 percent growth over the corresponding period a year earlier, the global aviation body said yesterday in a statement.
“Middle East airlines ’ traffic growth has started to pick up pace again, recording a 16 percent gain in passenger demand for April, after having softened in the second half of 2011,” IATA said.
“Although this is a fall from the 20.9 percent growth recorded in March, the March result was distorted by the impacts of the Arab Spring in 2011.” It added that demand grew faster than the 12.7 percent capacity expansion in April, while load factors remained high at 78.3 percent.
Globally, meanwhile, despite continuing economic weakness in some parts of the world, demand for air travel continues to grow, according to IATA, as total passenger demand rose 6.1 percent while freight demand was down 4.2 percent down on April 2011.
“The growth in passenger markets is encouraging,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s director-general and chief executive, said in a statement. “But it comes against an environment of continuing high oil prices and growing economic uncertainty. So translating the stronger demand into profits will be difficult.”
Air freight markets, however, slumped sharply in the first half of 2011 and bottomed out towards the end of the year, though April cargo levels stood at about two percent higher than in November 2011, according to IATA.