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Airline Industry Faces $4.7 Billion in Losses in 2009

The International Air Transport Association says world airlines are set to lose $4.7 billion in 2009 due to the global recession, almost double the amount of loss predicted by IATA in December.

The International Air Transport Association says 2009 is shaping up to be one of the toughest years the airline industry has ever faced. It says the global economic downturn has caused passenger demand to fall by 5.6 percent and has made a big dent in cargo traffic.

IATA Director General, Giovanni Bisignani, says air cargo was down by more than 23 percent in January. He says this is a leading indicator not just for airlines, but for the whole economy.

"Air cargo represents 35 percent of the value of goods traded internationally. And, a slowdown in cargo means that the consumers are not buying and manufacturers are not producing. And, we can fully expect that the economic downturn of the following months will get worse before it gets better," he said.

Bisignani says the only bright spot in this otherwise gloomy picture is the lower price of fuel. He says this will help the industry, but not enough. He says the benefits from lower fuel prices are overshadowed by falling demand and plummeting revenues.

He says airlines will have to make sacrifices to keep from going under, but he says the one area they will not short-change is safety.

"Despite this difficult moment, despite the loss in revenues, the massive losses, this is the number one priority. And, this is still a good story. By the end of this month, March, all IATA members will have achieved IOSA registration," Bisignani said.

IOSA is the acronym for IATA Operational Safety Audit, a program the airlines use to measure their conformity with global safety standards.

IATA says Asia-Pacific carriers are the hardest hit by the economic crisis and can expect losses of $1.7 billion. By comparison, it says North American airlines are putting in the best performance and will make an estimated $100 million in profit this year.

Regarding other regions, IATA says European, Latin American and African carriers are expected to record large losses. But, it notes the Middle East will be the only region to maintain growth.

The International Air Transport Association predicts the airline industry will start to recover by the end of the year or the beginning of 2010. It says consumers will benefit from the airline's misfortune as leading airlines slash fares to woo customers.