Airlines in Asia-Pacific Report 'Encouraging' Increase in Passenger Figures

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The number of international passengers traveling on major airlines in the Asia-Pacific region rose by 7 percent in the first three months of 2005 compared to the previous year, an industry group said Wednesday.

Seventeen international carriers across the region flew 30.6 million passengers between January and March, compared to 28.6 million in the same period last year, the Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Asia Pacific Airlines reported.

''Encouragingly, the number of international passengers carried by AAPA member airlines in the first three months of the year grew by 7 percent, indicating the continuing strength of travel demand,'' said Association Director General Andrew Herdman.

''However, concerns persist regarding the ongoing impact of high oil prices on the global economy,'' Herdman added in an e-mailed statement.

He was not available until next week for further comment, an association spokeswoman said.

The association has previously said that travel demand prospects for the aviation industry in 2005 remain positive, though soaring fuel prices could affect profitability.

The trade association represents Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Dragonair, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qantas Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.

Last year, the number of passengers traveling on these airlines rose 22.5 percent from 2003 to 117 million, signaling the industry's rebound from the 2003 SARS crisis, which caused thousands of flights to be cut as travelers avoided Asian areas hit by the outbreak.