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Japan quake, Mideast turmoil hit air travel: IATA

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) May 3, 2011
The earthquake in Japan and turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East hit international air travel last month, wiping about two percentage points off demand, the top airline industry body said on Tuesday.

Latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed that international air travel grew year-on-year by 3.8 percent in March, compared to 5.8 percent a month earlier.

"The profile in the recovery in air transport sharply decelerated in March," said IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

"The global industry lost two percentage points of demand as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa," he added in a statement.

The aftermath of the disaster in Japan accounted for about one percent of the traffic loss in March, while some 0.9 percent was lost to disruption in the Middle East and North Africa -- including the no-fly zone and military action over Libya.

IATA estimated that passenger traffic for holiday destinations Egypt and Tunisia was 10 to 25 percent below normal for March.

Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region suffered a two-percent loss in traffic, while domestic flights in Japan lost 22 percent of their passengers.

Air passenger traffic in North America tailed off by one percent.

IATA predicted that the aftermath of Japan's devastating quake and tsunami as well as geopolitical events would continue to depress the world air travel market through the second quarter.

However, the ongoing economic recovery should underpin passenger and freight markets in the second half of 2011, the association forecast.

Bisignani also delivered a fresh warning about the impact of high oil prices.

Although there was strong demand, especially in markets outside Europe, for business or luxury travel even with oil prices around $120 a barrel, economy class travel was weakening, he cautioned.

"Many leisure travellers are putting off flying because of the impact of high oil prices," said Bisignani.

IATA represents some 230 carriers that account for more than 90 percent of scheduled air traffic worldwide but does not include many of the big budget airlines.

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