Airlines Forecast Profits To Jump To Record High

The Associated Press

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The global airline industry expects its profits to jump to a record high next year, helped by falling jet fuel prices, rising travel demand and cost-cutting.

The International Air Transport Association said Thursday it forecasts a profit of $19.7 billion—well above the $12.9 billion expected this year and the $7.4 billion made in 2012.

But the Geneva-based group, which represents 240 airlines, or 84 percent of total air traffic, noted margins are dropping. Next year's profit would come from projected revenues of $743 billion. By contrast, 2010's $19.2 billion profit was made on revenues of just $579 billion.

Tony Tyler, director-general and CEO of IATA, said that the profit would amount to a little less than $6 per passenger.

"To put that into perspective, the McDonald's down the road here in Geneva will make about the same amount of profit by selling four Happy Meals at a cost in Geneva of $30," Tyler told reporters.

That kind of margin, at 20 percent, is well out of reach for airlines, he said.

"It begs the question of whether $6 per passenger is a reasonable reward for airlines if you consider the technology, skills and capital that is invested," he said.

Passenger traffic has been expanding by about 5-6 percent and jet fuel prices remain high, but below their 2012 peak, Tyler said. The $12.9 billion net profit the industry expects for 2013, based on $708 billion in revenue, is itself a significant improvement on the group's earlier forecasts.

He attributed that to "a slight fall in the high price of oil" and the efficiencies of mergers and joint ventures, along with more success at cutting costs. Mare airlines, for example, are charging passengers separately for food, baggage and other items.

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