GENEVA - Global air passenger traffic rose by 5.2 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.
"We saw healthy demand growth in 2013 despite the very difficult economic environment. There was a clear improvement trend over the course of the year which bodes well for 2014," IATA chief Tony Tyler said in a statement.
Airline capacity rose by 4.8 percent, while the average load factor, or percentage of seats occupied, was 79.5 percent, a 0.4 point increase 2012.
Tyler said that improved load factors were a clear sign of the airline industry's continued efficiency drive.
Demand in international markets grew by 5.4 percent, slightly ahead of the growth of 4.9 percent seen for domestic air travel.
The strongest overall growth was recorded by carriers in the Middle East (11.4 percent), followed by the Asia-Pacific region (7.1 percent), Latin America (6.3 percent) and Africa (5.2 percent).
Europe's market growth was second from the bottom, with 3.8 percent, marking a slowdown from the 5.3 percent rate recorded in 2012.
North America saw the lowest rate of growth last year, at 2.3 percent.
IATA has forecast that airlines are on course for record profits, citing sliding oil prices and mergers for the sector's improving outlook.
It has said profits are likely to have reached $12.9 billion (8.9 billion euros) in 2013, and could rise to $19.7 billion this year.
If the 2014 forecast turns out to be accurate, it would be the sector's highest-ever profit figure, according to IATA, though it stresses that such sums are divided among hundreds of airlines.
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