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GENEVA-International air freight traffic grew by 4.3% in 2007, according to the International Air Transport Assn. The figure was down slightly from the 4.6% growth recorded in ’06 and much lower than the 7% to 8% growth trend of preceding years.

“Strong passenger traffic growth of 7.4% was a key component of the industry’s $5.6 billion profit in 2007, the first black number since 2000,” says IATA’s director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani. “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% at which global trade expanded, highlighting a competitiveness issue with [ocean] shipping.”

Regionally, the Middle East led other areas last year with a 10.1% increase in freight demand, though the figure was down sharply from 16.1% the previous year. Latin America, with a 5.4% decline, came in last, but North America’s meager 0.7% growth also placed it well back in the field.

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

“Despite the ambiguity of strong passenger growth accompanied by weaker freight demand, we can say clearly that 2007 was the best in recent memory,” declares Bisignani. “We can state equally clearly that there will be no encore performance in 2008. Oil prices are higher than ever. Economic uncertainty accompanying the US credit crunch is broadening. And the slower growth for passenger demand in December sets the trend for the coming months. In a tough business environment the mantra remains the same: efficiency everywhere is everything.”

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