David Prosser: Airlines' pleas to stay stuck in the lounge


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Outlook It is difficult to imagine that Iata, the airlines association, is going to have much joy with the call it made yesterday for a suspension of the European Union's plan to bring its members into the carbonemissions trading scheme from January. For one thing, Europe's political leaders have made it clear they are determined to press ahead with their timetable. For another, Iata's forecasts for the airline industry's prospects vary so dramatically so often that they are scarcely credible.

At the beginning of the year, Iata was expecting the global airline industry to make an $8.6bn profit during the course of 2011. It then revised that forecast to $4bn in June, in the face of threats such as rising oil prices, tension in the Middle East and the Japanese earthquake. Yesterday, it moved its forecast back up to $6.9bn – apparently passenger numbers have been more robust than expected – while simultaneously cutting its forecast for 2012 (hence the request for a delay to emissions trading in Europe).

Iata says its lower forecast for next year is based on its expectation that global economic growth in 2012 will be 2.4 per cent, perilously close to the 2 per cent below which it says the airline industry slips into the red. It doesn't explain, however, how this squares with the predictions made by the International Monetary Fund yesterday. Hardly renowned for its economic optimism, the IMF forecasts global growth will come in at 4 per cent in 2012.

Nor does Iata's gloom fit with its prediction that even taking into account the effect of the EU's emissions trading scheme, Europe's airlines will make a £300m profit next year – or the launch yesterday of British Airways' biggest advertising campaign for more than a decade.