UAE among world leaders for air traffic growth

Middle East air passenger numbers are growing well beyond pre-global crisis levels and the UAE is leading the way with the Emirates siting among the world leaders for traffic.

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The UAE was one of the six fastest growing countries for air travel in November, helping it propel the Middle East's passenger volumes well beyond pre-global crisis levels, according to Airports Council International (ACI).

The Emirates joined Russia, India, Egypt, Brazil and South Korea as having the strongest growth, led by Dubai's 16 per cent hike in passenger numbers.

While the results are still being counted, last year will likely post record breaking numbers for air travel, suggesting that airlines have finally banished the ghosts from the global downturn, which forced companies and individuals to curtail travel plans.

"November reporting indicates that 2010 will set a new record for global airport industry traffic with total passenger growth nearing 7 percent for the past 12 months," said Angela Gittens, the director general of ACI, a worldwide association of airports based in Geneva.

Within the Middle East, traffic grew 13 per cent in November, ACI said, underscoring the region's economic recovery.

But cargo volumes have slowed their growth in the Middle East after seeing dramatic gains early last year.

"The hitherto very robustly growing regions Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific are in consolidation mode as their freight volumes surged during the reference period at the end of 2009," ACI said. "Growth stagnated in Singapore and Dubai."

Europe and North America have still not matched peak travel volumes recorded before the global downturn, ACI said. However, it added: "Nonetheless, Europe appears to be on track to becoming the largest traffic region in 2010 for the first time ever, moving ahead of the North America market."

igale@thenational.ae