US airlines to lead industry recovery in profits
North American airlines are expected to do best in 2013, posting a combined net profit of $3.4 billion, ahead of $3.2 billion in Asia Pacific, $1.1 billion in the Middle East and $700 million in Latin America, the IATA estimated.
Tyler said airlines are expected to benefit from U.S. economic growth — forecast to be the strongest among developed economies — despite talk of a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that the government could face.
Carriers in Europe and Africa, on the other hand, are among the worst off and expected to merely break even for 2012 and 2013.
Europe's airlines last turned a profit, of $400 million, in 2011, as the region's debt crisis weighs on demand for travel, the IATA estimated.
"The carriers in Europe are particularly gloomy, I would say, based on talks with CEOs," said Tyler.
The continuing financial uncertainty hovering over the European economy, high taxes and inefficient infrastructure will continue to plague the continent's industry next year, the trade group said.
"Certainly there are opportunities for further consolidation of airlines in Europe," said Tyler, adding that major carriers such as Lufthansa, KLM and International Airlines Group, despite their own struggles, may try to buy up some of the smaller airlines.
Meanwhile, global air freight markets are "very weak," Tyler said. Cargo demand is expected to increase by 1.4 percent in 2013, not enough to make up for the 2 percent decline suffered in 2012.