Global passenger numbers for February indicate that demand is accelerating on the back of stronger business confidence, particularly in emerging regions, according to IATA.

Passenger demand was up 3.7% compared to February 2012, but this figure actually masked improvements in recent months, the association said.

IATA said passenger demand has been growing at an annualized rate of 9% since October 2012, which appears to have been a turning point for air travel markets. This is almost double the growth trend over the first nine months of 2012.

IATA DG and CEO Tony Tyler said: “February’s performance was good news. Demand for air travel continues to rise on economic optimism and improved business confidence. But that comes with a few caveats. Much of the growth is concentrated on emerging markets. Europe continues to be a laggard. And the handling of the banking crisis in Cyprus has reminded all of us that the deep problems in the eurozone economies still remain.

Capacity was up 1% on the previous February and the industry load factor stood at 77.1%.

“Airlines are carefully managing capacity expansion, which is keeping the load factor at a record high. This is helping the industry to remain profitable despite persistently high oil prices,” Tyler said.

In March, announcing the improved 2013 financial outlook for the world’s airlines, Tyler said, “The industry’s fortunes appear to be moving in the right direction. But the margins are wafer thin. And any shock … could negatively impact the outlook.”