Andrew Chuter/LONDON

Economic turbulence in the Asia-Pacific region will wipe an estimated $2 billion off airline profits this year, according to figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The losses estimates have been released as part of a revision of the region's traffic growth forecasts to 2001 undertaken by IATA. The figures, provided by virtually all of the important airlines in the region and by those operating to it, show that average growth rates will decrease between 1997 and 2001, from the original 7% to 4.4% for passengers and from 9% to 6.5% for cargo. IATA says that the downturn will result in "some 30 million fewer passengers in the 2001 forecast year than the current forecast".

The impact on global passenger traffic will be to reduce growth from 6.6% to 5.4% and to cut cargo increases from 7.5% to 6.1%.

The survey also supplies new data on the likely impact on aircraft orders resulting from the revised growth figures. Airbus and Boeing have largely played down the effects to date. The results from the survey are mixed. Almost 40% of Asia-Pacific carriers expected a cut of more than 10% in their fleet acquisition plans for deliveries in the next five years. Among carriers outside the region, only 6% agreed with that figure.

Reduced growth is expected in most countries, but IATA says that it expects the markets in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand to be hardest hit, with China and Japan being the least affected by the economic downturn.

Further evidence of the effects of the economic downturn in the Asia Pacific region has come from the latest passenger traffic figures released by the Airports Council International.

Traffic results for November 1997 show that passenger numbers are down by 1%, to a total of 33.87 million, compared with the same period last year.

A similar fall occurred in October. While passenger numbers were going down, cargo numbers were rising by 5.6%, to 1.15 million tonnes. The numbers of aircraft movements for the region were virtually static.

In contrast to the problems experienced in the Asia Pacific region, passenger figures for the rest of the world continued to boom, with the smallest increase - of 6.1% - occurring in Africa, and the largest growth being reported from the Latin America/ Caribbean area, with 10%.

Perversely, cargo traffic figures for Latin America continue to tumble, recording a fall of 14.4% last November, while Africa led the table, recording the largest rise, at 12.2% - although from a low base. The numbers of air movements in both regions rose by 6%. All the figures are based on traffic results from 515 airports worldwide.

Source: Flight International