Middle East airlines saw passenger traffic increase 5.6 per cent in March, compared with the same month of 2010, but it was also the second decrease in traffic month-on-month due to regional unrest.

In February, regional airlines saw an 8.4 per cent growth in passenger demand and in January passenger traffic was up 11.7 per cent (MEED 1:3:11).

Egypt and Tunisia experienced a 10-25 per cent decline from normal passenger traffic levels for March. Military action in Libya “virtually stopped civil aviation to, from and within that country”, says Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (Iata).

“The profile of the recovery in air transport sharply decelerated in March. The global industry lost 2 percentage points of demand as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa,” says Giovanni Bisignani, Iata’s director general and chief executive officer.

The impact of the earthquake in Japan alone resulted in a 1 per cent drop in passenger traffic in March. Japan’s domestic market was the most severely affected, with a 22 per cent drop in demand, while carriers in the wider Asia-Pacific region saw a traffic loss of 2 per cent.

Globally, carriers recorded a 3.8 per cent growth in traffic levels, a slowdown from February levels.

Carriers in Europe recorded a 5.3 per cent growth in passenger demand and carriers in North America recorded a 3.7 per cent rise in traffic.

African carriers saw a 7 per cent drop year-on-year. Latin American carriers witnessed a 22.2 per cent rise in traffic levels in March compared with the same time the previous year, when traffic was impacted by the earthquake in Chile.