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Air passenger traffic posting strong gains

Worldwide air passenger traffic rose 15.4 percent in the first four months of the year compared with the same period of 2003, the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

Worldwide air passenger traffic rose 15.4 percent in the first four months of the year compared with the same period of 2003, the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.

Freight traffic climbed 11.3 percent in the same period.

In April, passenger traffic jumped 36.3 percent from the same month last year, when the industry was suffering the impact of the SARS virus and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, IATA added.

"A year after the devastating impact of SARS and the war in Iraq, industry efforts to rebuild passenger confidence see traffic largely recovered," said IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

But he warned that fuel prices were 55 percent higher than a year ago, which could add $8 billion to $12 billion to the industry's annual fuel bill, threatening airlines' goals for returning to profitability.

"The current crisis resulting from sky-high fuel prices once again highlights the industry's vulnerability to external shocks," Bisignani said in a statement.

In the January-April period, the Middle East saw the sharpest gain in passenger traffic, climbing 38.7 percent. The gain was 64.2 percent in April.

The Asia-Pacific region, which was the area most affected by the SARS outbreak, also saw a big jump in April, with passenger traffic up 64.2 percent against the same month last year.