Premium airline traffic rebounded in May - IATA

* Premium travel rebounds on business, trade recovery

* Up 18.7 percent in May, 10.8 percent in first five months

GENEVA, July 15 (Reuters) - Demand for first and business class tickets rebounded strongly in May, rising nearly a fifth year-on-year, after stagnating in April because of European airspace closures, air industry association IATA said.

In the first five months of the year, premium travel has grown by 10.8 percent compared with the 2009 period as business confidence and world trade recover, IATA said on Thursday.

In May premium travel was 18.7 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a 10.2 percent rise in economy class travel and growth of only 1.1 percent in premium travel in April, the International Air Transport Association IATA said in its monthly assessment of premium travel.

Consumer confidence is improving but at a slower rate than business confidence and leisure travel is lagging the recovery, IATA said.

Routes linked to Asia and the North and Mid Pacific showed growth rates of 20 percent or more while routes linked to the Middle East now represent more than 10 percent of international premium travellers.

The North Atlantic market remains fairly sluggish, with premium traffic rising 7.8 percent in May.

Routes within Europe saw growth in premium traffic jumping to 23 percent in May, reflecting an increase in long-haul passengers connecting through major European hubs.

IATA, whose 230 members include Lufthansa LHAG.DE, Gulf [GULF.UL] and Singapore Airlines SIAL.SI, said last month it expected the air industry to return to profit this year.

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; editing by Elaine Hardcastle