Europe lags worldwide air travel recovery

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The Independent Online

Global air travel is back up to pre-recession levels, but European growth levels are lagging behind competitors, the International Air Transport Association warned yesterday.

Passenger traffic jumped by 12 per cent last month, reaching levels 1 per cent higher than before the financial crisis, Iata said. And freight traffic shot up by 34 per cent to create a market 6 per cent larger than before the recession. Given the strong improvements, the global industry is now expected to see a $2.5bn (£663m) profit this year, after recording a $9.9bn loss in 2009.

But there are significant regional variations. And European airlines' 8 per cent growth spurt in May, is dwarfed by the 11 per cent seen in the US, the 13 per cent in Asia Pacific and the 18 per cent in the Middle East. Strongest of all is Latin America, where passenger numbers rocketed by 24 per cent.

Freight markets show a similar pattern. In Europe, demand is up by 22 per cent, while the US and Middle East both saw 35 per cent growth. In Latin America, volumes rose by more than 60 per cent.

Iata blames political "amnesia" as European governments look to raise air travel taxes, cut back on infrastructure and slow regulatory change. "The travelling public and Europe's struggling economy deserves much better than this short-sighted policy myopia," Giovanni Bisignani, the director general, said.

The concerns were re-emphasised by a separate announcement from Ryanair yesterday revealing plans to cut the budget carrier's UK winter capacity by 16 per cent. The carrier blamed the move on the Government's £11 air passenger duty, dubbed a "tourist tax".