Dec 9, 2008

Business - Airlines set to lose $5bn in 2008;IATA

GENEVA (Reuters) – Global airlines look set to return total losses of $5.0 billion in 2008 and are heading for $2.5 billion of losses in 2009, industry body IATA said on Tuesday.

The 2008 figure was slightly less than the deficit of $5.2 billion which IATA -- the International Air Transport Association -- predicted in September, due mainly to the rapid decline in fuel prices, and is lower than the 2009 figure of $4.1 billion it had forecast previously.

"The outlook is bleak. The chronic industry crisis will continue into 2009 with $2.5 billion in losses. We face the worst revenue environment in 50 years," said IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

Air cargo traffic, which makes up 35 percent of goods traded internationally, is continuing its decline, he said.

The 7.9 percent decline in air cargo in October, the fifth consecutive month of increasingly severe drops, was a clear indication that "the worst is yet to come" for airlines and the slowing global economy, according to the Geneva-based body.

North American airlines are expected to be the only region making a profit in 2009, but only of some $300 million, less than 1 percent of revenue, it said.

IATA's forecasts for 2009 were all based on an average price of $60 a barrel for oil.

(Editing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by David Holmes)

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