The latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that after two months of weakening growth, passenger traffic in the region is now going backwards, along with most other regions in the world.

The fall in the Middle East was almost exactly the same as the global average drop of 2.9 per cent. In recent years, the region has far outstripped the industry in terms of growth.

Only Latin America managed to record any passenger growth in September, compared to the same month in 2007. Africa fell by 7.8 per cent and Asia-Pacific by 6.8 per cent.

Passenger traffic in the Middle East has dropped sharply since the summer, after recording 10.6 per cent growth during the first half of 2008.

Growth fell to 5.3 per cent in July and 4.3 per cent in August.

However, September is the first month of negative growth in years and reflects the growing awareness that the region is not immune from the global economic slowdown (MEED 30:9:08).

IATA’s director general and chief executive officer Giovanni Bisignani emphasised that point at a speech to the annual general meeting of the Arab Air Carriers Association (AACO) in Tunis on 23 October.

Bisignani warned that airline profits in the Middle East and North Africa would fall by 30 per cent this year to $200m, from $300m in 2007, and urged the region’s carriers to accelerate liberalisation to assist the market (MEED 23:10:08).