* Business, first-class passenger numbers fall in March
* Industry body says bottom not yet reached
GENEVA, May 18 (Reuters) - The number of people flying business and first class fell sharply in March, depressing fares and hitting airlines’ revenues, an industry body said on Monday.
People flying on premium tickets fell 19 percent in March, against a decline of 8 percent in those flying economy, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported.
“We have not reached a floor to the fall in air travel,” IATA said, noting total air travel was down 9 percent.
“However, there were some tentative signs of stabilisation in premium markets across the Atlantic and within Europe.”
Premium fares were falling significantly as a result of lower load factors, an industry measure of how full aircraft are.
“As a result we estimate that revenues from premium travel were down around 35 to 40 percent in March and the first quarter,” the industry body said.
Asia-Pacific and long-haul markets connected to this region experienced the sharpest decline in premium travel.
The Middle East was the only region where airlines saw any growth in overall passenger demand in March, while elsewhere around the world passenger demand fell sharply, IATA said last month. [ID:nLS207147]
IATA has forecast global carriers are set to lose $4.7 billion this year as a result of the global recession that has shrunk passenger and cargo demand, after losses of around $8.5 billion last year. [ID:nLO1706] (Reporting by Jason Rhodes via Geneva Newsroom; editing by Mike Nesbit)