The world's airlines are expected to lose $9 billion this year due to the deepening crisis in global air travel, a major industry group said Monday.
Airline chiefs gathering in Malaysia Monday were told that the revised figures, which are a major jump from the $4.7 billion forecast in March, signalled that a recovery in the industry was a long way off.
"Today's situation is unprecedented, the most difficult ever," International Air Transport Association (IATA) director-general Giovanni Bisignani told over 500 aviation industry leaders at the two-day IATA annual meeting here.
In April, international air travel dropped 3.1 percent for passengers and 21.7 percent for cargo, compared to last year, IATA said. Its report warned that figures for May are likely to be much worse.
In addition to the drop in demand for passenger and freight travel, the aviation industry is also faced with rising prices of jet fuel, which reached a six-month high of $75 a barrel last week.
The challenges facing the industry will lead to an estimated $80-billion revenue loss for the year, a big hike from the $10.4 billion loss of revenue in 2008.
"Never before has the prospect of an industry-wide paralysis been so real," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his opening remarks.
"Never before has the need for new thinking and new approaches in the aviation business been so immediate and desperate," he said.
Despite a more positive outlook from policymakers and economists about a global economic recovery, aviation industry analysts have warned that while the worse may be over for airlines, a recovery is unlikely within the next six months.
"Optimists see growth by the end of the year, but pessimists view this as a mirage," said Bisignani.
"I am a realist. I don't see facts to support optimism."