Middle East carriers recorded a 19.1 per cent year-on-year growth in passenger traffic in December 2009 and recorded the fastest growth in passenger traffic of any region in the world in 2009.

Regional airlines reported annual growth of 11.2 per cent for the whole of 2009, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The increase was driven by Middle East carriers taking a larger share of long-haul connecting traffic by providing additional flights and launching new routes. The region’s airlines have also been relatively price competitive, according to an IATA spokesman.

In November, passenger numbers on Middle East airlines increased by 16.5 per cent, compared to the same month in the year before (MEED 05:01:10).

Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region and North America saw a year-on-year decline in passenger demand of 5.6 per cent while European carriers recorded a 5 per cent fall in 2009.

IATA says profitability in the industry will be slow to recover from the recent economic downturn and that globally, airlines are expected to lose a total of $5.6bn in 2010.

Global passenger demand for the full year fell by 3.5 per cent, and airlines had an average load factor of 75.6 per cent. Freight traffic showed a full-year decline of 10.1 per cent, with an average load factor of 49.1 per cent.