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posted Jan 5, 2011, 1:06 AM by Elaine Bell

The International Civil Aviation Organization estimates that in 2010 the airlines of the 190 ICAO Member States carried approximately 2.5 billion passengers, a 6.3% increase over the prior year, a period severely impacted by the global financial crisis.

"The substantial growth in traffic reflects positive economic prospects worldwide, based on a 4% increase in the world real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as estimated for 2010 by IHS/Global Insight, a major global economic forecasting organization," ICAO said.

Total scheduled passenger traffic, both international and domestic, measured in passenger-kilometres performed increased by 8% year-over-year. Capacity expressed in available seat kilometres increased globally by 3.7%, on increased load factors, up by 2 to 3 points according to regions.

International traffic grew by 8.8%, bolstered by a rebound in business and leisure long-haul travel, particularly in emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, with the largest percentage growth claimed by the airlines of the Middle East with 21%, followed by Asia/Pacific region with 12.9%, Latin America with 11.4% and Africa with 10%. North America and Europe traffic grew by 6.2% and 6.7%, respectively.

"Demand for air travel remained strong and resilient despite the impact of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which partially closed the European airspace in the spring," ICAO noted. "More than 100,000 flights were cancelled, including 80 per cent of the Intra-European market, while 9 million passengers were affected."

2010 domestic markets grew by an overall 6.9% over the prior year, reaching growth rates of 1.5%, 3.6% and 4% in North America, the Middle East and Africa, respectively, and rates of 15.1% in the Asia/Pacific region, 15.9% in Latin America and 12.2% in Europe.

"In the North American domestic market, still the world’s largest, deceleration of traffic growth confirmed the blurring of traditional lines between LCCs and legacy business models," ICAO said. "Overall, impressive international traffic growth and robust domestic market development in developing countries, coupled with economic growth higher than in developed economies, created a two-speed pattern producing the regional disparities noted."

ICAO forecasts worldwide traffic to grow 4.7% for 2011 and 4.9% for 2012, noting that oil prices remain "a potential impediment to growth, although this could be mitigated by the delivery of new and more fuel efficient aircraft."