Figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that the Middle East outperformed much of the world in 2008.

The 7 per cent figure for annual passenger growth compares to a 1.6 per cent global average. Growth in the Middle East’s air freight business was 6.3 per cent against a 4 per cent fall worldwide.

However, results for December show that the region has been sucked into the worldwide downturn.

In the final month of the year, Middle East passenger growth was 3.9 per cent, far below the 10 increase in capacity.

The region’s freight traffic also fell 9.2 per cent, compared to a 5.1 per cent increase in capacity. However, this compares to the global downturn in air cargo traffic in December of 22.6 per cent.