The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which made the prediction, has urged airlines in the Middle East and North Africa to focus on greater liberalisation and efficiency in a global downturn.

“Profits of Middle East carriers will fall from $300m in 2007 to $200m this year. Only a handful of carriers will be profitable, while the majority bleed red ink,” said IATA’s director general and chief executive officer Giovanni Bisignani.

He was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Arab Air Carriers Association (AACO) in Tunis on 22 October.

Bisignani said the region’s regulators need to accelerate the process of opening up their markets.

“We have seen pockets of progress, including open skies agreements and domestic liberalisation. Now the region’s governments must think bigger and act faster,” he said.