08 June 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging governments to avoid protectionist policies, as it released details of a forecast drop in international air cargo demand this year.
Speaking at the IATA annual general meeting and world air transport summit in Kuala Lumpur today, Giovanni Bisignani, IATA director general and chief executive, said protectionism was the "the enemy of global prosperity".
"To build a strong global economy, we must fight hard to keep the world trading," he said.
Bisignani (pictured) said international air cargo demand was forecast to drop by about 17 per cent this year to 33.3 million tonnes, compared with 40.1 million tonnes in 2008.
He said the recession was the most significant factor hitting the airline business.
IATA represents more than 200 airlines, comprising 93 per cent of scheduled international air traffic.
Bisignani said the industry fuel bill was forecast to drop by $59 billion (£37.3 billion) to $106 billion (£67 billion) this year and account for about 23 per cent of operating costs.
But he warned: "The risk that we have seen in recent weeks is that even the slightest glimmer of economic hope sends oil prices higher. Greedy speculation must not hold the global economy hostage."
The price of oil was highly volatile last year, rising to record levels of around $140 (£88.50) a barrel in the summer and then plummeting by more than $100 (£63.2) after September. It has since become more stable and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) basket price was at $68.08 (£43) a barrel on Friday.