Global Aviation Body Forecasts Rebound in Air Travel

MONTREAL (AP) -- Global passenger traffic will continue to take off in the next three years after rebounding strongly last year, having recovered from the Sept. 11 terror attacks and SARS outbreak, the U.N. civil aviation agency reported Thursday.

According to the latest forecast of the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization, traffic will continue its rebound of 2004, with world airline passenger traffic expected to expand by 7.6 percent, 6.5 percent and 6.2 percent in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.

The Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington and a slowing world economy hurt airline traffic in 2001 and 2002. The following year traffic was further impacted by the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the war in Iraq.

The U.N. agency said airline travel began to recover in the second half of 2003 and that it rebounded by 14 percent last year, due in part to the strong recovery of airlines in the Asia-Pacific region, which was most severely affected by SARS.

The agency said that stronger regional economies and sustained growth in the Middle East, as well as a slight decline in the cost of travel, also help explain the rebound.

The agency predicted airline traffic in the Middle East likely would grow the most, averaging some 10.9 percent a year from 2005 through 2007. Asia-Pacific airlines also should experience above-average traffic levels, ICAO estimates.

For the remainder of 2005, European and North American airline markets were expected to grow at more than 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively, but growth rates for 2006 and 2007 are projected to be slightly lower. Traffic for Latin American airlines and the Caribbean, as well as Africa, is expected to grow somewhat below the overall annual growth rates over the period.