Airline industry profits soar 11 percent in 2017

A video screengrab shows passenger David Dao being dragged off a United Airlines flight at Chicago O'Hare International

Serious episodes involving intoxicated and/or threatening airline passengers are on the rise, and airline crews are increasingly having to resort to physically constraining more of them.

This year, airline companies' profits increased by 11 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association on Tuesday. Around 51 million passengers are expected to fly on US -based airlines in the next month, a 3.5 percent increase from previous year, according to Airlines for America. The demand for air cargo is at its strongest level in over a decade.

According to the forecast by the industry's global trade association, combined net profits will hit USD38.4 billion, from a revised USD34.5 billion in 2017, with USA carriers weighing in with nearly half.

"Governments are not meeting their responsibility to provide sufficient infrastructure for the industry to meet demand", de Juniac said.

De Juniac urged governments to "raise their game" and do more to ensure infrastructure can cope with higher aviation demand.

More than half, or 54 percent, of the violations of safety-regulations involved smoking onboard, 34 percent had to do with regulations such as turning off electronic devices and 14 percent dealt with not complying with seat belt signs, the IATA said. This will outpace an expected 3.5 per cent increase in unit revenues. While this was lower than the likely 7.5 per cent improvement in RPKs in 2017, the figure was still above the 10-15 year average of 5.5 per cent. Volumes are expected to grow by 4.5 per cent in 2018 (down from the 9.3 per cent growth of 2017).

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Another 200 million passengers are expected to travel although the rate of growth is slowing.

IATA described costs as the "biggest challenge to profitability" in 2018, with jet oil prices expected to jump 12.5 per cent in 2018 compared with 2017 levels.

Airlines with low levels of hedging (such as those in the United States and China) were are likely to feel the impact of this increase more immediately than those with higher average hedging, including those in Europe.

Fuel was tipped to comprise 20.5 per cent of total costs for airlines in 2018, up from 18.8 per cent in the prior year.

The cargo business continued to benefit from a strong cyclical upturn in volumes, with some recovery in yields. This led cargo volumes to grow at twice the pace of the expansion in world trade of 4.3 per cent. Accelarating labour costs will see wages take a 30.9% chunk meanwhile next year.

Strong demand, efficiency and reduced interest payments will help airlines improve net profitability next year, despite rising costs.

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