IATA: Airline losses exceed $6b in first half of 2009

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Airline net losses exceeded $6 billion during the first half of 2009, excluding fuel hedging gains, according to an IATA sample of 54 member carriers.

But net losses for the period were likely larger as not all carriers reported their second quarter results at the time IATA took its sample, the trade group cautions in its latest financial update.

Losses reached $2 billion during the second quarter this year-when airlines typically make 50% of their yearly profits-following net losses of $4 billion in the first quarter.

The results were driven by year-over-year declines in both international passenger and cargo demand, which outpaced capacity reductions in both businesses.

International passenger demand fell 2.9% year-over-year in July, a relative improvement from the 7.2% drop recorded year-over-year for June.

Cargo traffic faltered 11.3% this July compared to July 2008, while June 2009 results were 16.5% below June 2008 figures.

However, month-to-month comparisons saw demand improve by more than 3% in both international passenger and cargo traffic between June and July of 2009.

While airlines recorded the first year-over-year improvement in passenger load factors on international markets this July-80.3%- IATA cautions that figure may be the highest for this year as the industry enters a seasonally weak period and as capacity cuts diminish.

Capacity cuts, which lagged behind slumping passenger and cargo demand earlier this year, have started to slow "and published schedule plans suggests future growth", IATA says.

As airline losses mounted during the first six months of 2009, IATA says carriers raised $3 billion in equity and $12 billion from new debt issues during the first half of the year.