Mideast unrest hits air traffic growth in February

Mideast unrest hits air traffic growth in February

Geneva:Growing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa stifled air passenger traffic in February 2011, reducing growth sharply from January levels, International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures released on Tuesday showed.

International passenger traffic grew 6% compared with a year earlier, down from a revised 8.4% rise in January as would-be travellers delayed or postponed their journeys to the region, depressing monthly numbers.

“The political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa during February is estimated to have cut international traffic by about 1%. As such it is responsible almost entirely for the slippage in passenger demand growth," IATA said.

Air freight -- an important measure of world trade -- was also impacted by the unrest, as well as by factory shutdowns due to the Chinese New Year, which occurred in the first part of February.

Air cargo traffic was up just 2.3% in February after rising 8.7% in January, IATA said in its monthly traffic figures.

Rising oil prices, pushed up by concerns the unrest could force oil prices up further, are also choking air traffic.

The Japanese earthquake and ensuing concerns over a damaged nuclear power plant combined with continuing unrest in the MENA region are expected to squeeze March air traffic further.

“As the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia spreads across the Middle East and North Africa, demand growth across the region is taking a step back," said IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani in a statement.

“The tragic earthquake and its aftermath in Japan will most certainly see a further dampening of demand from March."

IATA represents 240 airlines operating 94% of all international traffic. Domestic flights are excluded from its data.