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Global airlines are set to post profits of 12.7 billion dollars (9.8 billion euros) this year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecast on Monday, revising higher a previous estimate.
This compared to $7.6 billion in profits made last year and was an improvement on a March forecast of $10.6 billion.
If confirmed, it would make 2013 the industry's third-best year since 2001.
But IATA head Tony Tyler said business was "still tough" and noted that airlines were operating with a 1.8-percent profit margin.
This was a "four dollar profit per passenger, less than the price of a sandwich in most parts of the world," he told the global airline body's annual general meeting.
Fuel costs had increased by 55 percent since 2006 and airlines were flying against considerable economic headwinds, he complained.
"Generating even these small profits under current conditions is a major achievement," said Tyler.
IATA estimated airlines would carry some 3.1 billion people this year -- rising above the three billion mark for the first time -- and transport more than 52 million tonnes of cargo.