GENEVA - An airline industry association says global passenger demand rose 3.7 per cent in February from a year earlier on stronger business confidence particularly in emerging countries.
The International Air Transport Association, whose 240 member airlines carry 84 per cent of all passengers and cargo, says during this time, capacity increased by one per cent, keeping planes flying 77.1 per cent full and helping the industry remain profitable despite high fuel prices.
Demand for international flights grew 3.6 per cent, while domestic demand was up 3.9 per cent in February, mainly due to surging demand in China.
China's domestic traffic soared 20.2 per cent, reflecting the improved economy and impact of Chinese New Year-related traffic. U.S. domestic traffic dipped 0.6 per cent on a 2.5 per cent drop in capacity.
Meanwhile, carriers in Asia-Pacific saw international passenger traffic increase by 4.5 per cent on an acceleration of China's economy and growth in intra-Asian trade.
European traffic grew 0.8 per cent, reflecting the contraction of the Eurozone economy.
North American international traffic rose just 0.3 per cent. However, demand in February was three per cent higher than October. The load factor was 76 per cent, a 4.6 per cent reduction from the prior year.
The Middle East led with demand expanding by 10.6 per cent on a 9.7 per cent increase in capacity.
Latin American traffic grew seven per cent on a 9.9 per cent rise in capacity due to robust economic growth in countries such as Colombia.
African airline traffic climbed 7.7 per cent, the second best of all regions of the world.
IATA recently raised its outlook for the airline industry's profits in 2013, saying it expects US$10.6 billion profits, mainly based on more passengers and cargo.
Revenues are expected to rise to US$671 billion, while costs are forecasted at $649 billion.