US airlines have stepped up lobbying for new government aid, armed with estimates the war with Iraq will mean $4 billion in losses above the $6 billion already forecast for 2003.

European airlines are gearing up to fight "at the highest political level" any competitive advantage to US airlines through such aid.

The US Air Transport Association (ATA) wants $4 billion, down from the $9 billion originally sought, to offset losses it says are directly attributable to the conflict. Last week it looked as though Congress was planning a smaller package, including a one-year, $600 million war-risk insurance extension.

Demand for air travel in the USA has "dropped at a pace not seen since the aftermath of the 11 September attacks", says the ATA. International Air Transport Association director general Giovanni Bisignani says the war would increase global airline losses by $10 billion as passenger traffic drops by 15-20%.

International Civil Aviation Organisation council president Assad Kotaite has urged governments to provide support such as assuming war-risk insurance or freezing airport fees.

The Association of European Airlines has called for "immediate and full suspension" of the EU's rule under which airlines lose airport slots associated with suspended operations.

Source: Flight International