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Airline industry sees higher profits in 2017

Cancún, Mexico | AFP |  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) increased its profit forecast for the global airline industry Monday, citing surging demand.

Total profits for the group’s 275 member airlines are now expected to hit $31.4 billion this year, up more than five percent from the previous forecast late last year.

“Airlines are defining a new epoch in industry profitability. For a third year in a row, we expect returns that are above the cost of capital,” said IATA’s director general, Alexandre de Juniac, as the group opened its annual meeting in the Mexican resort city of Cancun.

But he warned airlines still face risks, ranging from cost increases to security issues to growing protectionism in some countries, including the United States and Britain.

“With earnings of $7.69 per passenger, there is not much buffer,” he said.

“That’s why airlines must remain vigilant against any cost increases, including from taxes, labor and infrastructure.”

Among the industry’s concerns, he said, was the “surprise” decision by the United States and Britain to ban laptop and tablet computers in-cabin on flights from certain airports in the Middle East and Turkey.

The move came after intelligence officials learned of efforts by the Islamic State group to fashion a bomb into consumer electronics.

But airlines are unhappy with the ban.

De Juniac said US President Donald Trump’s administration only made things worse when it threatened to extend the ban to flights to and from Europe, even though it has since backed off the idea.

“There is growing evidence that the ban on large electronic devices in the cabin and the uncertainty created around possible US travel bans is taking a toll on some key routes,” he said.

Lost productivity caused by passengers’ inability to work on affected flights is costing an estimated $180 million a year, he said.

That would rise to $1.2 billion a year if the ban were extended to flights between the United States and Europe, he said.

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