But demand still weak
The number of air passengers travelling premium class rose in July, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said today (September 17).
The airlines' group said premium travel fell in July by 14.1% compared with the same month in 2008.
But it added that this also compared with June which saw a 21.3% fall in premium traffic.
IATA said: "This means that premium passenger numbers rose between June and July."
The Association said that premium travel was mostly for business and was linked to world trade.
This had "bottomed out" in May and started to increase in June.
"This improvement in cross-border trade is boosting business travel but demand is still very weak compared to the recent past and there remains much excess capacity, producing intense competition.
"Moreover, there are no signs as yet that corporate travel buyers are willing to pay for the more flexible, full service and, for the airlines, higher yielding premium seats.
"As a result we estimate average premium fares remained 23% down on last year.
"Business travel may be starting to return but, as a result of low yields, we estimate revenues from premium travel are improving much more slowly than passenger numbers and were still down 35-40% on the year in July."
Regionally, IATA said that in Europe, the improvement in premium traffic was "much less marked."
Numbers in July were down 22.6% compared to 28.3% for the first half of the year.
In the first six months of 2009, economy travel fell by 4.4% but by just 0.8% in July.
IATA said: "While business travel on premium seats looks likely to return on long-haul markets (albeit maybe at a lower yield) on relatively short-haul markets like within-Europe the recession looks like further racheting down the structural decline already seen in premium travel within this region."
Premium travel from Europe to the Far East fell by 14.4% in July compared with a 23.7% fall in June and to the Middle East by 4.8% compared to 8.9%.
There was "slower improvement" on transatlantic routes.
Premium traffic fell 10.4% in July compared to 13.9% in June.
IATA said the slower improvement reflected the slower improvement of US and European GDPs compared with those in Asia.
"Economic prospects for the third quarter look rather better, which should lead to some improvements in premium and economy travel across the North Atlantic in the next few months," IATA said.