REUTERS: IATA says airlines should make more money than previously expected this year, helped by low oil prices and work by airlines to fill planes and drive ancillary revenues.
IATA, representing over 260 airlines accounting for 83 percent of global air traffic, is now forecasting they will make a collective net profit of US $ 39.4 billion this year, up from a previous estimate of US $ 36.3 billion and with more than half of all profits generated by North American carriers.
That would be the fifth straight year of improving profits and give a net profit margin of 5.6 percent, while the industry’s return on capital is also expected to exceed the cost of capital for only the second time.
“It’s an impressive performance given the economy is pretty weak. So I think it’s a sign of change,” IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce said at IATA’s annual meeting in Dublin. However, the picture was mixed across the globe, with profitability set to vary widely depending on region and type of carrier.
While North American carriers are expected to account for more than half of the industry’s profits year, Latin American economies have been hurt by the fall in oil prices and the region’s carriers are seeing hardly any decline of fuel costs due to falling exchange rates.
“In Europe, the legacy carriers have been squeezed by the low-cost carriers and the Middle East carriers and they have started working to improve profitability and that is beginning to show,” aviation banker Bertrand Grabowski said. Some state-owned carriers in emerging economies have done little to improve profitability, he said.Attractive asset
Aer Lingus boss Stephen Kavanagh said the Irish airline’s takeover by British Airways and Iberia’s owner IAG was a sign of how Aer Lingus had worked to become an
“There are a significant number of major airline companies and groups that are focused on that return, and that puts discipline on the entire industry,” he added.
Falling ticket prices have been a concern for airlines over recent months and IATA estimates fares will drop 7 percent this year, but unit costs will fall faster, by 7.7 percent
The improved performance is not only down to the low oil price but is also due to airlines becoming better at filling planes and generating extra revenue, IATA head Tony Tyler said.
Nevertheless, fuel is expected to account for just under 20 percent of expenses this year, down from a 33 percent high in 2012-2013.
Tyler said while it was becoming more normal to make a profit there was still room for improvement, especially on the debt front.
“It will, however, take a longer run of profits before balance sheets are returned to full health,” he said.