Industry heavyweights at the show agree that this year's growth surge compared to 2009's catastrophic drops in demand will continue, but the level of optimism varies from robust growth predictions to extreme caution that typical industry volatility could rear its ugly head.

During a dynamic question-and-answer period Monday at the ICAO/World Bank Global Aviation Strategy Summit, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines Director General Andrew Herdman said that given the recovery this year. one could be flippant and say last year's crisis was "just another downturn". But living through it in real time, "You didn't know where the bottom was."

Herdman puts himself in the "bullish camp" and predicts a broad based recovery rather than a double-dip recession.

But with many industry pundits "hardly recognising this year is a good year", Herdman says it is difficult to have a lot of visibility into market conditions into 2011.

Using this year as a base, it is tricky to extrapolate growth levels for 2011, Herdman explains. "My own view is it could 5-6%", he says, or those levels could surge to 20%. Regardless, airlines need to be prepared. If growth falls below 5%, Herdman advises, "Don't cry foul," and instead be prepared for volatility.

Retiring Ethiopian Airlines chief executive and industry veteran Girma Wake says the carrier posted growth levels of 17-20% during the downturn, and "This year will be better than last." A majority of Ethiopian's growth momentum is stemming from the carrier's intra-Africa markets and its Asian markets. Wake says Ethiopian has 14 weekly flights to China and "Every seat is occupied and the yields are good."

Recovery levels are largely dependent on specific regions, says Germal Singh Khera, Malaysia Airlines general manager of government and industry relations. Obviously higher GDP growth results in stronger traffic patterns. Khera says current forward booking show some indications of growth next year. But he warns, "the airline industry is so volatile" that those trends could vanish during the next quarter.

Source: Flight Daily News