Middle East airlines saw a 23.6 per cent year-on-year growth in passenger traffic in January, the largest growth of any region in the world.

Globally, all airlines recorded an increase in passenger demand in their January figures, with an average growth of 6.4 per cent compared to January 2008, according to figures from the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region achieved an increase of 6.5 per cent in January 2010 compared to the same time the year before, while North American and European carriers saw a growth of 2.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

Airlines in these regions all experienced a decline in passenger demand in December 2009.

Meanwhile, carriers in Latin America recorded a growth of 11 per cent and African carriers achieved an increase in passenger traffic of 6.3 per cent in January 2010.

Iata says the increase in passenger traffic in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia-Pacific is parallel to strong economic recovery in these regions.

Middle East carriers recorded a 19.1 per cent year-on-year growth in passenger traffic in December 2009 (MEED 28:01:10).

Airlines have lost two to three years of in terms of growth due to the global economic downturn but a 3 per cent increase in freight volumes from December 2009 to January 2010 is cause for optimism, according to the Iata.

However, passenger yields remain 15 per cent below the peaks seen in early 2008 before the downturn.

The Iata expects airlines to lose $5.6bn in 2010.