Airline Premium Traffic Spikes – International Air Transport Association

Demand for business and first-class seats continued to rise strongly as economic
recovery boosted air travel, the airline industry association IATA said on


Demand for premium seats in March was 10.8 percent higher than a year ago, rising in the first quarter at an annualized rate of 25 percent compared with the last three
months of 2009.

But demand for business and first-class travel — the
most profitable part of airlines’ passenger business — is still 15 percent
below pre-crisis levels, the International Air Transport Association said in
its latest premium traffic monitor.

That contrasts with a stronger recovery in economy
travel, which is back to pre-crisis levels, with demand rising 8.8 percent in
March over a year ago, for an annualized increase in the first quarter of 10
percent, it said.

“Growth in both seat classes are being driven by
business travel, rather than leisure. As business confidence and world trade
have turned up sharply business travelers have returned,” IATA said.

But consumer confidence has not recovered to the same
extent, with unemployment and consumer debt remaining high, which will slow the
recovery in leisure travel, said IATA, whose 230 airline members include
British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

The volcanic ash plume in Iceland, which is
continuing to disrupt traffic in Europe, is likely to cut overall international
traffic numbers by 4 percent in April, it said.

Airlines are also seeing a strong recovery in air
cargo demand, which account for some 30 percent of world trade movements by

IATA’s latest forecast is for cargo demand to rise by
12 percent globally this year after falling 10 percent in volume in 2009,
driven by a strong rebound in the Asia-Pacific region, it said in its magazine
Airlines International.