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Page added on March 23, 2012
Emirates, the biggest airline by international traffic, said more carriers will go bust this year as fuel costs and sluggish economies undermine profitability.
“We can reel off a whole load of airlines that are teetering on the brink or are really gone,” Tim Clark, the Dubai-based carrier’s president, said in an interview. “Roll this forward to Christmas, another eight or nine months, and we’re going to see this industry in serious trouble.”
Airline profits will plunge 62 percent in 2012 to $3 billion, equal to a 0.5 percent margin on sales, as oil prices rise, the International Air Transport Association said this week. Emirates’s fuel bill accounts for 45 percent of costs and may jump by an “incredibly challenging” $1.7 billion in the year ending March 31, according to Clark, who says he’s sticking with a no-hedging strategy rather than risking a losing bet.
“You think you’re going to win, but in the long term you always lose,” Clark said yesterday at the Gulf carrier’s head office near Dubai International Airport. “When we enter into derivatives, betting whatever it may be with counterparties who actually control the price of fuel in the first place, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is that smart?’”
AMR Corp. (AMR1)’s American Airlines is restructuring after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and India’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. (KAIR) may lose its license as it struggles with cash shortages and losses. That’s after Barcelona-based Spanair SA collapsed Jan. 27, followed that week by Hungarian national carrier Malev Zrt. (MALEV)
Clark said some private airlines will need to be bailed out by governments in the countries where they’re based, though that will raise aid issues with the European Union and other parties.
In the U.S., more filings for Chapter 11 protection are likely, while smaller carriers operating in the Indian Ocean region and in Africa face “difficulties,” the executive said.
“This is what the fuel prices are doing,” he said. “It’s about time somebody sitting there, controlling the fuel prices, began to look a little bit more seriously at the devastation it’s causing, not only to airlines but to the global economy.”
The industry couldn’t survive a further 10 or 15 percent increase in fuel prices, especially with the European Union’s carbon emissions trading system about to add to costs, he said.
At Emirates the fuel bill, while not over budget, has “zapped the bottom line,” and that will be evident in annual results scheduled to be published next month, Clark said.