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Global airline passenger demand rose 5.9% last year with record carryings of 3.3 billion compared to 2013, latest Iata figures show.
The performance was above the 10-year average growth rate of 5.6% and the 5.2% growth seen in 2013.
Capacity rose 5.6% last year, with the result that load factor climbed 0.2 percentage points to 79.7%.
More than half of the growth in passenger travel occurred on airlines in emerging markets including Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.
A pick-up in Chinese domestic travel, which expanded by about 11% in 2014, helped drive the growth in recent months.
Iata director general and chief executive Tony Tyler said: “With a 5.9% expansion of demand, the industry out-performed the 10-year average growth rate.
“Carriers in the Middle East posted double-digit growth while results in Africa were barely above previous-year levels.
“Overall, a record 3.3 billion passengers boarded aircraft last year – some 170 million more than in 2013.”
But he added: “While it is clear that people will continue to travel in growing numbers, there have been signs in recent months that softening business confidence is translating into a levelling off of international travel demand.
“In the aftermath of the Greek elections and the intensifying debate on how to deliver a dynamic economic program for Europe, we must not forget the power of air connectivity to create growth.
“Governments can kick-start economic development by reducing the passenger taxes that depress demand for air transport, costing jobs and prosperity.
“There are some positive signs. The Scottish government is promising to cut its air passenger duty by 50%. And Austria’s air transport levy is being evaluated as part of comprehensive tax reforms. Scrapping the Austrian levy alone could create some 3,300 jobs.
“That should help convince politicians in these countries to move from considering reductions to delivering results.
High taxes, onerous regulation and infrastructure limitations make Europe a tough place to run an airline.
“A continent-wide commitment to address these issues so that aviation can play its critical role as an economic catalyst would be a powerful signal that Europe’s politicians really do mean business,” said Tyler.
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