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September 10, 2009

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Air travel recovery expected in 2011

INTERNATIONAL air travel, whacked by the economic downturn, is starting to stabilize but may not recover until 2011 as companies and passengers continue to scale back, executives at aviation giants Boeing Co and Airbus SAS said yesterday.

Passenger travel, somewhat better in the second half of 2009 than in the first, was still expected to slump 6 to 8 percent for the year, said Randy Tinseth, a Boeing vice president for marketing.

Still, there were signs the drop in demand was slowing, with global airlines beginning to restore capacity and the Chinese and Latin American markets picking up, he said.

"We're already starting to see some improvements in traffic and traffic growth, but we've got a long way to go," Tinseth said at an Asian aerospace and aviation show in Hong Kong. "We see 2010 as a year of economic recovery and 2011 as a year of air travel recovery."

Airlines have racked up massive losses since the global economic crisis led companies to curb travel and shipping and consumers cut back on trips. Carriers, their losses already US$6 billion in the first six months of the year, are set to lose a total of US$9 billion for all of 2009, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Boeing rival Airbus said air traffic seemed to be in the process of bottoming out and was slightly more optimistic.

Boeing's Tinseth said Asia is set to overtake North America as the world's largest air travel market over the next 20 years, growing from its current 32 percent share to 41 percent.


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