By Vittorio Hernandez

Singapore, Singapore

Despite the spate of labor unrest hitting major air carriers, the International Air Transport Association forecast on Tuesday a 73 increase in global aviation profits for 2011.

IATA based its bright forecast on stronger-than-expected demand for air services in Europe and the Middle East even if a large part of both continents are going through an economic slowdown and political turmoil.

The association said airlines would earn $6.9 billion in profits in 2011 based on sales of $594 billion. IATA members account for 93 percent of global passenger traffic. In June, IATA predicted earnings would reach $4 billion, which is just one fourth of 2010's $16 billion profit.

IATA Chief Executive Tony Tyler said even if profits improved, a long, slow struggle still lies ahead for the industry due to high fuel costs and razor-thin profits caused principally by the slow global economic pace.

IATA predicted passenger demand would go up 5.9 percent in 2011, up from the June forecast of 4.4 percent. For 2012, the association foresees air travel increasing by 4.2 percent.

Several major airlines are undergoing labor disputes which resulted or could lead to strikes and lesser profits. These include Qantas, Philippine Airlines and Air Canada.

On a longer-term basis, aircraft manufacturer Airbus also foresees brighter days ahead for the global aviation industry, forecasting the number of passenger planes worldwide doubling in the next 20 years.

Airbus said the number of commercial jets with more than 100 seats will increase to 31,000 by 2030 from the current 15,000. The firm said the demand for new aircraft would mainly come from China, the United States and Germany.

For the same period, Airbus said the Asia-Pacific region would account for 34 percent of orders for new planes. with Europe and North America each at 22 percent.

Low-cost air carriers would capture 19 percent of all traffic by 2030 from the current 5 percent, partially fueled by growth in the number of middle-class air travelers to 5 billion from the present 1.84 billion, the manufacturer said.


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Travel | Global Airline Profits Forecast to Rise 73 percent in 2011