UPDATE 1-International air travel demand up 3.7 pct in Feb

Wed Apr 3, 2013 10:25am EDT

ZURICH, April 3 (Reuters) - Global air travel demand continued to recover in February on the back of stronger business optimism, particularly in emerging markets, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Wednesday.

"Demand for air travel continues to rise on economic optimism and improved business confidence," IATA Chief Executive Tony Tyler said in a statement.

"Much of the growth is concentrated on emerging markets. Europe continues to be a laggard."

Tyler said February's 3.7 percent growth rate masked the fact that passenger demand had been growing at an annualised rate of 9 percent since October, almost double the rate during the first nine months of 2012.

IATA added that the industry load factor stood at a record high of 77.1 percent as a result of airlines carefully managing capacity expansion, helping to keep the industry profitable despite high oil prices.

On Tuesday, the airline industry body predicted the global air cargo market is set to extend a slow recovery unless a fresh blow to confidence from the euro zone reverses the trend.

IATA represents 240 airlines operating 84 percent of global air traffic. Domestic flights are excluded from its data.