GENEVA -- The global airline industry has forecast a modest improvement in global net profits for 2013, crediting a backdrop of rising optimism about the world's economy -- particularly in the United States and Europe.
The International Air Transport Association, whose 240 member airlines carry 84 percent of all passengers and cargo, upgraded its financial outlook Wednesday to expected profits of $10.6 billion this year, mainly based on more passengers and cargo handled.
IATA said the industry's overall revenue in 2013 is expected to rise to $671 billion from $637 billion last year, while costs will go up to $649 billion from $623 billion.
In December, the Geneva-based global trade group had forecast global net profits of $8.4 billion in 2013, led by a recovery in U.S. airlines mainly from cost cuts and restructuring taken to address weak economic growth. That forecast had anticipated that expected overall revenue would rise to $659 billion and costs would go up to $640 billion in 2013.
Asia Pacific airlines are now expected to deliver the biggest contribution to the overall picture, with $4.2 billion in net profits forecast for this year, followed by North American airlines contributing an expected $3.6 billion in net profits.
That is a reversal from December, when the Geneva-based global trade group said it expected North American airlines to do best in 2013 with a combined net profit of $3.4 billion, ahead of the $3.2 billion forecast for Asia Pacific airlines.
Tony Tyler, chief executive of the trade group, told reporters in Geneva that airlines' financial performance is made all the more difficult by high fuel costs, with jet fuel expected to rise to $130 per barrel on average for 2013 -- up from the $124 per barrel this year the group said it expected in December.