IATA chief says weak cargo remains biggest airline worry

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Tony Tyler addresses delegates as he opens the 69th IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Cape Town June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Weakness in air cargo markets remains the biggest worry for airlines despite some evidence of recovery in 2013, the head of the International Air Transport Association said on Sunday.

"Latest numbers in cargo show that although globally cargo improved a bit, it didn't really improve in this region (Asia). It's usually been very strong in this region," IATA director general Tony Tyler told a news conference.

Air cargo is seen as a barometer for the economy. Experts estimate some 40 percent of world trade by value goes by air.

Led by gains in the Middle East, air freight traffic grew 1.8 percent globally in December compared with the same month of 2013, but it fell 1.1 percent in Asia, according to IATA.

Tyler was speaking at a briefing ahead of the Singapore Airshow.

In December, the Geneva-based airline industry group raised its 2013 and 2014 forecasts for global airline profits due to lower jet fuel costs and improved efficiency.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga, Editing by Tim Hepher)