Passenger numbers on Middle East airlines increased by 16.5 per cent in November 2009 compared to a year earlier, according to the latest figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The Middle East remains the fastest growing region in the world for airline traffic. Carriers in Latin America recorded an 8.2 per cent increase in traffic in the same period, while carriers from the Asia Pacific region had a 5.1 per cent increase, and both European and North American airlines experienced a 3 per cent drop.

Overall, global passenger demand rose by 2.1 per cent in November 2009 compared to November 2008, and is still 6 per cent below the peak levels seen in early 2008.

According to IATA, global passenger traffic is expected to grow by 4.5 per cent this year, with an estimated 2.3 billion journeys by air in 2010, bringing passenger volumes back to peak levels.

Despite the rapid growth in passenger numbers, IATA predicts that Middle East airlines will suffer losses of $300m in 2010 due to rising fuel costs and low yields.

Globally, IATA expects the world’s airlines to record a $5.6bn global net loss in 2010.