The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has reported that about 2.7 billion passengers travelled by air in 2011, a 5.1% rise in the air passenger traffic compared with the previous year.

The report revealed that overall traffic growth has been fuelled by both positive economic prospects worldwide, based on a 3% increase in the world real gross domestic product (GDP), and by a strong demand for air travel, which points to improved household balance sheets and robust business cash flows.

International passenger traffic increased by 7.4% led by a strong demand in business and leisure travel, particularly in emerging markets although the passenger growth was less compared to previous year. Domestic passenger traffic in 2011 grew by 4.9% over 2010 boosted by an estimated 10% increase in demand for domestic air travel in China.

The Middle East saw the biggest rise in international passenger growth recording 11.9% year-on-year rise followed by Europe with 9.5% rise and Latin America at 9% rise. North America and the Asia-Pacific region recorded a rise of 2.9% and 6.3% respectively, while African region recorded a rise of 4.7%during the year. The low passenger growth in Asia Pacific region was mainly due to the negative economic growth in Japan which impacted the air travel in the region.

The highest growth of the traffic has marked the benefits from the ability of low cost carriers (LCCs) to expand their point-to-point markets. Cargo traffic increased marginally by 0.7% during the year recording 49 million tons of freight carried. The heavier economic climate in Europe along with a slowdown in Chinese exports and strong competition in maritime transport affected cargo traffic, the report revealed.