As the global recession drags on, premium air travel saw its 9th consecutive month of decline in February, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA said Thursday.

First-class travel dropped off 21.1 percent on a year over year basis, compared to a 16.7 percent decline in January and a 13.3 percent fall in December, the IATA said. However, the figures from 2008 were distorted between 3 and 3.5 percent in February, due to that being a leap year.

A very tentative sign that a floor to the decline in premium travel may be approaching was shown in the reduced decline on Europe-Far East markets, the IATA noted, stating that premium travel slowed to just under 20 percent in February, compared to the over 21 percent drop-off in January.

We estimate that premium revenues declined by around 30% in February 2008, revenues were being boosted by double-figure fare increases (to help recover surging fuel costs) and so premium revenues were growing at that time by over 15%, despite low single figure growth in passenger numbers, the IATA said.

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