The worldwide aviation industry is steadily recovering from Sars, with August's numbers from the International Air Transport Association (Iata) showing just a slight drop in passenger traffic compared with last year. Revenue passenger kilometres (rpk), or the distance flown by paying passengers, dipped a comparative 0.3 per cent in August, according to Iata, which represents 270 international airlines and, as a result, 98 per cent of total global scheduled air traffic. This figure compares with a drop of 3.6 per cent in July, 'August figures confirm the positive recovery trend of June and July, with international passenger traffic increasing in all regions and freight traffic holding a steady course,' Iata director general Giovanni Bisignani said. 'This is encouraging news for our beleaguered industry.' Airlines worldwide suffered a 20 per cent drop in passenger revenue during the peak of the Sars outbreak in May. The numbers improved to a 12 per cent drop in June. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said earlier that its rpk in August fell 2.6 per cent to 4.48 billion, compared to a 15.4 per cent drop in July. Hong Kong Dragon Airlines, which has a focus on mainland operations, posted a comparative 16.5 per cent jump in rpk to 488 million in August. According to Iata, passenger traffic in North America was down 6.5 per cent. The Middle East saw strong growth in August, with rpk rising 18.7 per cent, and South America enjoyed a 8.2 per cent rise. Iata expects overall international passenger traffic this year will be just 1 per cent lower than last year if the recovery continues. Overall, rpk in the first eight months was down 5.7 per cent. Cargo traffic registered steady growth. Year-to-date freight tonne kilometres were up 6 per cent year on year.