Business and premium travel continued to deteriorate in February, surpassing January figures even as premium fares have been cut at an accelerated rate since November 2008.

The number of passengers travelling on premium tickets fell 21.1% in February after declining 16.7% the month before, according to IATA's latest premium traffic report.

At the same time, IATA estimates that premium revenue dropped roughly 30% in February, after falling about 18% in January.

In addition to premium traffic tumbling, economy travel also fell further in February than January, dropping 8.3% compared with 4.7%.

 Premium business travel
 ©OJO Images/Rex Features

However, the slower decline in economy suggests that business passengers continue to fly, but they switch to cheaper seats in the back of the aircraft.

In addition to those losses, total passenger numbers fell 9.6%, in February 2009 compared to the 10.1% decline in international revenue passenger kilometres reported in February 2008.

"Average travel distances are now getting shorter as long-haul international markets suffer most, as a result of the unprecedented collapse in world trade and investment flows," IATA says.

Within specific markets, the pacific region saw the largest drop in premium traffic at 27.3% year-over-year. In the North Atlantic, premium travel fell 22.5% in February compared with the year prior.

However, premium traffic did not fall everywhere as Africa was the only region with growth, up 2.8% year-over-year in February.

IATA expects the economic decline to bottom out in Europe and the United States by mid-year with significant economic recovery in 2011.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news