Airlines show 'encouraging' demand growth in January: IATA

International air passenger traffic grew 6.4 percent in January compared to a year earlier, with Asia, Latin America and the Middle East lifting demand, IATA said Tuesday.

Cargo demand also grew 28.3 percent in January compared to the same month in 2009, or up 3.0 percent from December, as businesses moved to restock inventories, said the International Air Transport Association in a statement.

"We are starting to see some encouraging signs in demand, albeit with large differences among the regions," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA director general.

A recovery in passenger traffic was notable among Asian-Pacific carriers, which posted 6.5 percent growth year-on-year. Compared to the lowest point reached in 2009, demand for these carriers has risen 31 percent.

In the Middle East, demand soared 23.6 percent in January compared to January 2009, while in Latin America, growth was also a robust 11 percent.

Carriers in North America and Europe recorded a more muted recovery, with passenger traffic demand up just 2.1 percent and 3.1 percent respectively.

"This reflects the jobless recovery from the recession in which consumers are focused on paying down debt," said IATA.

A similar trend was observed in cargo demand, although the weak recovery by European carriers was most marked, said IATA.

"With an 11.6 percent improvement in January compared to the previous year, carriers in Europe stand out for their sluggish demand recovery," it said.

World airlines suffered their biggest traffic decline since 1945 last year in the economic crisis, making 2009 the "worst year the industry has ever seen," IATA had said, adding that recovery in 2010 would be slow.

In addition, it has forecast a 5.6-billion-dollar (4.1-billion-euro) loss for airlines in 2010.