updated 2/18/2009 1:25:00 PM ET 2009-02-18T18:25:00

An international airline trade group said Wednesday that first and business class travel fell by double-digit percentages again in December, and it sees demand getting worse in the first few months of this year.

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The International Air Transport Association said premium airline passenger traffic, which includes first and business class, fell 13.3 percent in December from a year earlier. Year-over-year traffic in November fell 11.5 percent.

By route, premium traffic in December fell by 8.8 percent across the North Atlantic, by 19.7 percent across the Pacific and by 6.9 percent to South America. By region, Asia traffic continued to show the greatest weakness, falling 25.1 percent from 2007.

The cascading drop in demand over the last four months of 2008 was driven by a steep decline in global business activity and international trade, IATA said.

Premium travel fell 2.8 percent for the full year.

In economy class, passenger traffic fell 5.3 percent in December, not quite as much as November's 6 percent drop. But IATA said that was due to higher pre-bookings in less troubled times.

"Leisure trips at this time of the year may well have been pre-booked before the full extent of the recession was apparent, so an accelerated fall in economy travel numbers should be expected in January," IATA said in a statement.

And overall, IATA said traffic should keep falling.

"With jobs being lost at an increasing rate during January and consumer confidence falling further, it seems that the bottom has not yet been reached for air travel and even weaker numbers may become evident in the first few months of this year," the trade group said.

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