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AIRLINE profits for 2012 will be far lower than previously forecast, the International Air Transport Association has said.

IATA, based in Geneva, said that it still estimated that airlines would make a total profit of $6.9bn (€5.1 bn) this year.

But next year this would fall to $3.5bn from $4.9bn expected earlier, and this could turn into a loss of $8bn (¤5.9bn) if the eurozone crisis spread.

"The eurozone crisis puts severe downside risk on the 2012 outlook as illustrated by the recently published OECD economic outlook," IATA said.

"In a worst-case scenario, should the eurozone crisis evolve into a full-blown banking crisis and European recession, IATA estimates that the global aviation industry could suffer losses exceeding $8bn in 2012," the group said.

The warning came as Aer Lingus reported that its passenger bookings jumped 7pc in November compared with 2010.

The Irish airline recorded 699,000 booked passengers with numbers up on both its short-haul and transatlantic flights.

Numbers on short-haul were up 7.4pc at 624,000 while some 75,000 people flew to the United States, an increase of 4.2pc.

Aer Lingus Regional -- the service operated by Aer Arann -- had 69,000 booked passengers last month, a 30.2pc increase.

Speaking about the threat to airlines, IATA chief Tony Tyler said a lot hangs on a positive outcome to eurozone talks this week.

He said a failure to reach a solid agreement "could lead to losses of over $8bn -- the largest since the 2008 financial crisis".