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GENEVA (Reuters) - European air travel recovered further in October, despite Hurricane Sandy costing the global industry at least $500 million, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.
European carriers enjoyed a 2.6 percent rise in international passenger traffic from a year earlier, using up 80.9 percent of capacity. Although growth slowed from September's 5.5 percent year-on-year rate, it was higher than in the two other major markets, North America and the Asia-Pacific.
"Although the hurricane negatively impacted international travel for European airlines in October... the underlying growth trend shows little sign of slowing, despite weak or no economic growth in many European economies," IATA said in a monthly survey of the global air transport market.
Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of nearly 17,000 flights to the five most affected airports in New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia. At its peak on Oct 29, 8-9 percent of global capacity was grounded, equivalent to 1.6 billion seat-kilometres, IATA said.
Globally, international passenger traffic was 3.2 percent up from October 2011 but down 0.2 percent from September.
Within that total, there were strong regional variations, with a 12.4 percent year-on-year increase in international passenger travel on Middle Eastern airlines but only 1.4 percent growth for Asia-Pacific carriers.
IATA said the Asian airlines could have been held back by strong competition for long-haul markets and reductions in international seat capacity by Indian airlines.
North American carriers, the worst hit by Hurricane Sandy, still eked out a 0.2 percent rise in international air traffic demand from October 2011, although U.S. domestic traffic fell by 0.7 percent.
Air freight markets have declined significantly over the past three months, consistent with weak business confidence in major economies and a slowdown in world trade growth, IATA said.
Asia-Pacific airlines have been weakest, accounting for two-thirds of the fall in air freight volumes from September to October. But Middle Eastern airlines have shown strong growth, with a 13.4 percent rise in air freight traffic compared with last year.
International freight traffic was down 3.8 percent in October compared with a year earlier and down 1.9 percent from September. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Hugh Lawson)