Global Air Travel Demand Could Slide This Year, No Thanks to Ebola, World Tensions – IATA

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 7, 2014 4:12 PM EST

Spurred by the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the political tensions gripping the Middle East plus the looming trade war with Russia, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Wednesday said it expects global air travel demand to get impacted this year.

REUTERS
Flight stewardesses take a selfie at the door of the Boeing 737 aircraft of Brazilian airline Gol, which will travel with the Brazilian national soccer team during the 2014 World Cup, before its first flight between Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, at Confins International Airport, in Belo Horizonte May 27, 2014. The aircraft was painted by Brazilian artists, twin brothers who go by the name "Os Gemeos". Belo Horizonte is one of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Earlier forecasts had said global airlines' combined profit will hit $18 billion this year, up from $10.6 billion in 2013.

"We are optimistic that the industry will still end the year with an improvement in profitability over 2013. But the regional impact of some of these risks will challenge some airlines more than others," Tony Tyler, director general of IATA, said in a statement.

IATA said that African airlines are already challenged how to fill in seats even prior to the mad Ebola outbreak scare. IATA data showed African planes only average two-thirds full their capacity, while demand had plummeted by 2.7 per cent in June.

The WHO has not recommended travel restrictions to Africa, saying the risk of passing on the Ebola virus through air to plane passengers is low.

However, the health scare has prompted nonetheless some airlines to suspend flights to the affected west African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

These included lead African carriers Arik and ASKY as well as Emirates, the first major international airline outside Africa to do so.

Read: 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Dubai's Emirates Suspends Flights to Guinea, Test on Woman Who Died in UK After Arriving from Gambia Negative

On Thursday, British Airways followed the footsteps of Emirates and declared suspension of all flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, due to the "deteriorating public health situation."

The declining number of international flights to the affected countries will surely lead to "lower revenues and financial inflows," the World Bank said this week.

Further exacerbating the global air travel situation this year is the looming trade war with Russia brought about by the sanctions imposed on it by a number of nations for its supposed involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in July.

Already, Dobrolyot Airline, the low-cost subsidiary of Russian flag carrier Aeroflot, has become the first casualty of these sanctions.

Read: Casualty of EU Sanctions: Low-cost Russia Airline to Suspend Services; Russia Counters, to Ban European Carriers from Airspace

"All have the potential to dent demand," Tyler said.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Nacho Doce)
Flight stewardesses take a selfie at the door of the Boeing 737 aircraft of Brazilian airline Gol, which will travel with the Brazilian national soccer team during the 2014 World Cup, before its first flight between Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, at Confins International Airport, in Belo Horizonte May 27, 2014. The aircraft was painted by Brazilian artists, twin brothers who go by the name "Os Gemeos". Belo Horizonte is one of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
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