Middle East carriers have recorded an 8.4 per cent increase in passenger traffic in February, a decrease from the previous month as political unrest continues in the region.

In January, traffic growth was up 11.7 per cent (MEED 1:3:11).

Political unrest in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria is expected to have a further impact on the region’s passenger traffic in March. Combined, these three countries represent 6 per cent of the region’s traffic.

The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has caused a 1 per cent drop in global passenger levels. Similarly, the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in early March is also expected to affect passenger traffic.

“Another series of shocks is denting the industry’s recovery from the recession. As the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia spreads across the Middle East and North Africa, demand growth across the region is taking a step back,” says Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive officer and director general of Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (Iata).

“The industry fundamentals are good, but extraordinary circumstances have made the first quarter of 2011 very difficult.”

African carriers saw traffic fall by 1.3 per cent compared to the previous year and 13.1 per cent from January. This is also attributed to unrest in North Africa, with Egypt and Tunisia accounting for 18 per cent of the African market and Libya representing 3 per cent.

In other regions, European carriers had a 7.4 per cent rise in traffic in February compared to the previous year, while carriers in North America had a 6.7 per cent growth in traffic levels.

Asia-Pacific carriers had a 3 per cent growth in traffic, a drop from January levels.

Carriers in Latin America were the least exposed to volatility last month and they recorded an 11.8 per cent increase in traffic.