- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

HONG KONG (AP) — Airline traffic worldwide picked up sharply in June but remains depressed after the SARS scare, and a full recovery will take time, a leading industry official said yesterday.

“The worst is over, but the road to recovery will be long,” said Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association.

Mr. Bisignani predicted traffic this year will show a drop of 2 percent compared with 2002. He stuck by IATA’s latest prediction that airlines will lose $6.5 billion for the year, with $4 billion of the total a result of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Traffic also was affected by the Iraq war.

International air traffic was down 11.8 percent in June compared with the same month a year earlier, but that showed a marked improvement from the 21 percent traffic plunge in May, the Geneva-based IATA said.

Traffic on Asian and Pacific airlines, which were hit hardest by SARS, showed a drop of 35.8 percent for June, compared with 55 percent for May.

SARS sickened more than 8,400 people and killed more than 800 worldwide, most of them in Asia. The disease has been declared under control, and airlines are rebuilding schedules.

“The industry turned the corner in June,” Mr. Bisignani said. “Although we are still well below where we were at the same time last year, travelers are returning.”

Mr. Bisignani said pent-up demand is helping, as is the summer vacation season in the Northern Hemisphere. Many airlines also have offered a variety of discounts to lure travelers.

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