Air Transport World

A gloomy picture. (airlines lost $4 billion in 1991, according to International Air Transport Association)

GENEVA - Somebody behind the scenes at the IATA office here worked out that the association's 200 airline members subsidized each passenger on scheduled services at an average of $ 15 a trip during 1991.

That was the difference between the IATA airlines' break-even point and the amount that they in fact lost - $4 billion. It was the biggest negative result in the industry's history, outstripping the 1990 loss of $2.7 billion that had held that dubious record.

Senior airline people gathering in Montreal this month for IATA's annual meeting, therefore, do so against a gloomy background but with inevitable hopes of better times ahead. Nobody here in Geneva is ready to go firm at this stage on what this year's result will be. But some crystal-ball gazing indicates that "better" could mean a loss of "only" $2 billion, unless there has been some big upturn in traffic and, more important, in yield during the late summer and fall.

Gunter Eser, whose last AGM as director general this will be before he retires at the end of the year and hands over the reins to Pierre Jeanniot, said: "It's a question of how less bad things may turn out in '92, compared with '90 and '91. What is certain is that we simply cannot envision another year of losses such as those in the last two years - $6.7 billion in total.

"Actual load factors will have to increase and break-even load factors decrease, so that we can obtain higher yields. …

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