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Arab air traffic continues to grow amid global crisis

passengers likely to increase to 105m from 99.6m

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Gulf News

Arab air carriers to transport over 105 million passengers

Riyadh Arab air carriers are expected to transport more than 105 million passengers in 2009 compared with 96.6 million last year, according to the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO).

AACO Secretary General Abdul Wahab Teffaha said the carriers managed to maintain sustained growth during the current year despite the global financial crisis.

"The overall growth results of all the companies were not satisfactory.," he said.

Some of them faced difficulties due to the crisis," he told reporters on the sidelines of the General Assembly of AACO, which began in Jeddah on Saturday evening. According to Teffaha, the Arab air carriers were able to expand their operational base at a time when most airlines worldwide are suffering huge losses.

"The Arab carriers are expected to transport 105 million passengers using 730 aircraft. Even though there has been an increase in the number of passengers, they are not in a position to avert operational losses and decreases in net profit," he said while attributing this mainly to fall in air fares worldwide.

The kingdom's national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines, is hosting the three day general assembly, which started deliberations on the challenges facing the air transport industry. Among the major aviation companies attending the conference are Emirates, Itihad, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.

Khaled Al Molhem, director-general of Saudi Arabian, is chairing the conference, in which heads of Arab air companies as well as international aviation leaders from all over the world are participating.

On the general situation of Arab air carriers, Al Molhem said that the AACO made landmark achievements in enhancing cooperation among Arab air carriers and is moving forward from the phase of the theoretical to the real working field by implementing strategic plans and working programmes.

"Most significant among these programmes is the working out of a mechanism for joint negotiations with the European Union and other international bodies," he said.

The meeting will also highlight common aspirations among airlines and passengers.

According to Al Molhem, Arab airlines made several achievements through their umbrella organisation AACO.

"These included a highly advanced global air communications network, joint cooperation projects at destinations abroad to obtain several advantages and rationalisation of expenses," he added.