Premium traffic within the Middle East grew by 8.8 per cent in the first three months of the year, compared with the first quarter of 2007.

Figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that by contrast, first and business class air traffic slumped by 10.7 per cent in Europe and 5.2 per cent in North America.

The only region worldwide to have outperformed the Middle East is Africa, which leapt 18.4 per cent year on year.

Premium travel between the Middle East and Africa rose by 18.5 per cent. Flights between the region and the Far East increased by 16.8 per cent, and to Europe by 7.9 per cent.