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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Sharp rise in global air traffic
BA planes at Heathrow
Passengers are returning to the skies quicker than expected
Global air travel is now growing faster than forecast, a year since the war in Iraq and the Sars virus saw a sharp decline in passenger numbers.

Air traffic climbed by 10% in the first quarter of 2004, compared with the same period in 2003, the International Air Transport Association has said.

The industry trade body had expected to see an increase of 6.9%.

For the first three months of 2004, passenger numbers were up 9.6%, while freight increased by 10.1%.

The March-on-March increase was even stronger for passenger levels, which grew by 13.3%.

Industry efforts

Freight levels for March were however less impressive than the first quarter as a whole, increasing by 8%.

The biggest quarterly gain was reported by Middle East-based airlines, which were most affected by last year's invasion of Iraq.

Collectively they saw a 40.2% rise in passengers, and a 26.3% surge in cargo.

IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani said the airline industry must continue to work hard to improve financial performance.

"Together we must drive the changes needed to ensure sustainable profitability," he said.

Speaking to the Global Travel and Tourism Summit in Qatar he also called for the air transport and tourism industries to work closer together.

"Together we must ensure that our monopoly infrastructure providers share our drive for cost reduction and efficiency and that governments understand the need for greater liberalisation."

IATA represents 270 airlines, which provide 98% of international scheduled air travel.

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