Air travel flies back to recovery after volcano: IATA

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International air traffic resumed a strong recovery in May as airlines shrugged off disruption by the volcanic ash cloud over Europe a month earlier, airline association IATA said on Tuesday.

Global passenger traffic grew by 11.7 percent year-on-year in May while freight leapt 34.3 percent over the same period, latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed.

"Demand rebounded strongly in May following the impact of the European volcanic ash fiasco in April," said IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani.

"Passenger traffic is now one percent above pre-recession levels, while the freight market is six percent bigger," he added.

Bisignani said earlier this month that the ash cloud spewed out by Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano, which prompted shutdowns of parts of European airspace in April, cost the airlines some 1.8 billion dollars in lost revenue.

The strong growth in demand in May outstripped the increase in capacity by airlines, as planes were loaded at high levels of close to 79 percent for the sixth consecutive month, IATA noted in a statement.

Europe remained the region with the weakest growth, with an 8.3 percent increase in international passenger demand. That pattern is likely to continue as the region's economies remain troubled, according to the industry body.

Robust economic growth in China drove the recovery in the Asia-Pacific region, where passenger demand grew by 13.2 percent in May.

Middle Eastern carriers took advantage of their connecting hubs between continents to record a 17.5 percent growth in demand, while the biggest upturn was recorded in Latin America, with 23.6 percent growth last month.

International traffic in North America grew by 10.9 percent.

Airlines are expected to make 2.5 billion dollars in profit in 2010 after losses of 9.9 billion last year, marking a collective return to profit fro the first time since 2007.

However, Bisignani said airlines, airports and traffic control services must keep costs in check, and reiterated sharp criticism of taxes on aviation.

"The travelling public and Europe's struggling economy deserves much better than this short-sighted policy myopia," said Bisignani.

IATA represents some 230 airlines, but not the major budget carriers.

© 2010 AFP

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