Cargo traffic, which outpaced a 9.5 percent rise in February passenger numbers, must increase a further 3 percent to recover to pre-crisis levels, IATA said in its latest monthly traffic report.
IATA cautioned that the increases were from very low levels. "Cargo hit bottom in December 2008, with very little improvement realized by February 2009," the Geneva-based group said.
"We are moving in the right direction. In two to three months we should be back to pre-recession traffic levels," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director-General and CEO.
"This is still not a full recovery. The task ahead is to adjust to two years of lost growth," Bisignani said.
Despite the sluggish U.S. economy, North American airlines booked a 34.1 percent increase in cargo shipments in February, rivaling the 34.5 percent rise recorded by Asia-Pacific carriers.
European airlines are benefiting least from the rebound in cargo traffic with year-on-year growth of just 7.2 percent in February.
Latin American carriers increased freight tonnage by 41.9 percent from February 2009.
"The strong global air freight upturn has been largely driven by the business inventory cycle," IATA said.
"We can expect this part of the cycle to wear out in the second half of the year when inventories reach normal levels. From that point, we can expect slower growth as air freight will be driven by consumer spending and world trade growth."
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