Air cargo demand jumped by more than a quarter in June compared with a year ago and passenger numbers rose more than one tenth as airlines saw a growing recovery from the economic crisis, industry figures showed.

While the recovery is faster than expected, there are sharp regional differences, with all regions except Europe reporting double-digit increases in passenger traffic, airlines industry body IATA said.

International freight traffic in June was 26.5 percent higher than a year earlier and passenger demand rose 11.9 percent, according to a monthly report from IATA, the International Air Transport Association.

IATA Director-General Giovanni Bisignani said these double-digit growth rates were unlikely to be maintained.

“Business confidence remains high and there is no indication that the recovery will stall any time soon. But with government stimulus packages tailing off and restocking largely completed, we do expect some slowing over the months ahead,” he said.

The data are a leading indicator of trade and the overall global economy. IATA estimates that some 30 percent of world trade by value—more expensive goods rather than bulk cargos—are moved by air. The data also confirm a recent forecast that the industry is returning to profitability.

IATA, whose 230 members include Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, said on July 20 that almost 70 percent of members surveyed had made money in the last quarter and a similar proportion expect further improvement over the year ahead.

IATA revised its own forecast for 2010 industry financial performance to a profit of $2.5 billion from a loss of $2.8 billion.

Airline capacity increased slightly above demand in June, keeping load factors—an industry measure of capacity usage—close to historical highs at 79.8 percent for passenger traffic and 53.8 percent for freight. (Reuters)