The latest figures from the International Air Transport Association reveal growth in premium travel slowed in January, up 3.3 per cent year-on-year but down on the December result of 4.5 per cent.
At the same time, economy class passenger numbers were up 2.9 per cent in January year-on-year, also a slowdown on December growth of 4.2 per cent.
The timing of the Chinese New Year had some impact on the year-on-year comparisons, but not much overall, with the seasonally adjusted trend weakening in January in both premium and economy markets.
Over the past six months, premium and economy passenger numbers have been increasing at just two to three per cent, with Europe suffering in particular.
Premium travel within Europe contracted 0.5 per cent in January year-on-year and the North Atlantic market was flat.
Emerging markets, particularly those linked to Asia, are the source of growth in premium travel.
Hussein Dabbas as regional vice president for the Middle East & North Africa, said: “Today’s premium traffic numbers show the continuing strength of the Middle East as a driver of business air travel.
“For example, growth in January on the Africa- Middle East routes was 10.9 per cent and from Europe it was 7.3 per cent, compared to January 2012.
“This compares with overall global growth of only 3.3 per cent over the same period. With international business confidence strengthening in recent surveys, this is a good sign of even more robust growth to come.”