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ILO Discusses Airline Crisis - 2002-01-23

The International Labor Organization is holding a conference in Geneva to seek solutions to the crisis facing the airline industry, a crisis whose beginning can be pinpointed exactly: September 11, 2001. Officials from the International Air Transport Association told the conference they are seeing some glimmers of hope.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 sent the airlines' fortunes spiraling downward with breathtaking speed.

Officials of the International Air Transport Association say that in the year 2000, IATA's 274 member airlines recorded a profit of $2.6 billion. IATA officials estimate industry losses for last year at $7-11 billion, and they say the September attacks are almost completely to blame for the losses.

The association's vice president for international relations, Koki Nagata, says there are signs that some customers, such as business travelers, are returning. But he says more needs to be done and the association has begun a campaign to encourage people to fly. "We are trying to regain the confidence of the customer," he said. "We really want to see an earlier sign of recovery, hopefully before the summer. Very hopefully."

A report by the International Labor Organization shows the major North American and European carriers bore the brunt of the terrorist attacks. But it predicts the fallout from these attacks increasingly will be felt by airlines in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Mr. Nagata says it is up to the airline industry to restore public confidence in its ability to provide a good, economical and safe service. He says those airlines that don't succeed in doing that, will have difficulty surviving.