Premium traffic up 6.3% in February: IATA

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IATA's latest premium traffic monitor shows that business travel continued its upward growth trajectory in February, defying wider uncertainty in the global economy.

Worldwide premium traffic numbers were up 6.3% year-on-year in the month, IATA says, resulting in a seasonally-adjusted average 5% annualised growth rate for the past three months.

Several distortions could have contributed to February's high traffic, the industry body notes. These include last year's Arab Spring, which depressed traffic levels; the early Carnival in Brazil; the Chinese New Year in January; and the extra day afforded by the 2012 leap year.

Nonetheless, the figures suggest that the upward trend in premium traffic which began in late 2011 remains intact.

This contrasts with a less certain outlook for economy traffic, which had been growing at 7% annualised rates for much of 2011, but has slowed to just 1% over the past five months.

"Economic indicators suggest that the performance of premium markets is once more being supported by improvements in the business environment, with both trade activity and business confidence increasing in recent months," IATA says in the traffic report.

The industry group's quarterly business confidence index, published earlier this month, also shows that airline profitability expectations increased slightly at the beginning of the year.