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Airline bosses worried over high oil prices,

Beijing: High oil prices and the unresolved European debt crisis hitting the financial bottomline of the global aviation industry would be the major focus of debate at the World Air Transport Summit beginning here tomorrow.

The mega event, being organised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on its 68th IATA Annual General Meeting, has brought together some 650 leaders of the global aviation industry, including airlines, aircraft makers and other service providers, for two days of intense discussions on the industry`s most important issues.

"Oil prices are high, although moderating somewhat from recent peaks. The European sovereign debt crisis is unresolved and we are seeing signs that it is starting to affect Asia`s export-driven economies," Tony Tyler, IATA`s Director General and CEO, said ahead of the AGM here.

He said though air cargo demand was weak, passenger demand was quite strong. Despite this, the industry`s profitability has remained "razor thin".

IATA, which had announced in March its industry outlook for a USD three billion profit on USD 633 billion in revenues for a net margin of 0.5 per cent, is all set to revise these estimates considering the volatility of markets over the recent months as well as the positive impact of very strong traffic growth, its officials said.

Observing that these were "some very challenging times" for the airline industry, the IATA chief said the industry profits peaked in 2010 at USD 15.8 billion, but were halved in 2011 to USD 7.9 billion. "And they will be even weaker again this year," Tyler predicted.

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