Istanbul – Airlines may report losses of $6.1 billion (R47 billion) this year as spiralling fuel costs and slowing economies wipe out earnings.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata), whose members account for 93 percent of international traffic, cut its forecast again at a meeting in Istanbul yesterday after oil prices rose 42 percent in six months.

Iata, which forecast a $4.5 billion profit as recently as April 1, said the surge in fuel costs had combined with slowing demand after the tightening of global credit to create a “perfect storm”. The airline industry had a profit of $5.6 billion last year, the first since 2000.

“Just as we start to recover, skyrocketing oil prices are changing everything,” said Iata chief executive Giovanni Bisignani. “The situation is desperate and potentially more destructive than our recent battles with all the horsemen of the apocalypse combined.

“Our industry is like Sisyphus: after a long uphill journey a giant boulder of bad news is driving us back down.”

More than a dozen carriers have collapsed in the past six months, with UK-based business-class operator Silverjet the latest casualty, grounding planes last week after running out of cash.