"Strong passenger traffic growth of 7.4% was a key component ofthe industry's $5.6 billion profit in 2007, the first black numbersince 2000," says IATA's director general and CEO GiovanniBisignani. "But it wasn't all good news. Freight slowed to 4.3%,below the 4.6% recorded in 2006. It was also below the 7.5% atwhich global trade expanded, highlighting a competitiveness issuewith [ocean] shipping."

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Regionally, the Middle East led other areas last year with a10.1% increase in freight demand, though the figure was downsharply from 16.1% the previous year. Latin America, with a 5.4%decline, came in last, but North America's meager 0.7% growth alsoplaced it well back in the field.

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According to IATA, boosting air freight demand will remainchallenging. Growth is expected to slow in the first half of '08before picking up later in the year. The organization projects 4%to 4.5% overall growth through December.

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"Despite the ambiguity of strong passenger growth accompanied byweaker freight demand, we can say clearly that 2007 was the best inrecent memory," declares Bisignani. "We can state equally clearlythat there will be no encore performance in 2008. Oil prices arehigher than ever. Economic uncertainty accompanying the US creditcrunch is broadening. And the slower growth for passenger demand inDecember sets the trend for the coming months. In a tough businessenvironment the mantra remains the same: efficiency everywhere iseverything."

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