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Sun 22 Feb 2009 04:12 PM

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Mideast airlines to double losses in '09 slump - IATA

World air travel body sees $200m losses for Gulf carriers, on smaller loads, regulatory issues.

Middle Eastern airlines are likely to double their losses to $200m in 2009 as they feel the pinch of the global financial crisis, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Sunday."Aviation has taken off in the Middle East, but after five years of boundless optimism, global events have conspired to cast a shadow on the future," said Majdi Sabri, IATA's Middle East, North vice-president.

Middle East governments and airlines, primarily in the Gulf Arab region, have invested about $50 billion in aviation infrastructure and $178 billion on aircraft as they sought to transform the region into a transportation hub, Sabri said.

"That very connectivity means exposure to the recession's impact on transfer traffic from North America, Europe, Africa and Asia," he said at an aviation conference organised by London-based MEED.

Regional carriers posted losses of $100 million in 2008 and their profitability would be hurt further by smaller load factors, regulatory obstacles, taxes and user charges, he said.

Total passenger and cargo traffic growth would grow about 1.2 percent, IATA said, without providing a combined comparative figure for 2008.

Passenger and freight traffic advanced seven percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, in 2008, a sharp decline from growth of 18.1 percent and 10.1 percent in 2007. (Reuters)

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