Swedish airline industry warns of bird flu effect

Growing global fear of the deadly bird flu could pose a threat to the airline industry's bottom line, a Swedish industry lobby group said on Friday.

“When global panic over (the respiratory disease) SARS was at its peak, it was really a blow to the airline industry … If there is a similar focus on the bird flu it could have a very negative impact,” Hans Enelius, deputy chief of Swedish airline lobby group Svenskt Flyg, told AFP.

“We haven’t seen a drop in travel yet, but even if the bird flu does not begin spreading from human to human, fear could cause a dramatic decrease in passengers on international flights, especially on flights to Asia,” he added.

According to Swedish public radio, the number of Swedish passengers travelling abroad dropped by seven percent in 2003 when concern over the deadly SARS disease was at its height.

A similar decline now would be devastating for the industry and for the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (LFV), which runs all public airports in Sweden, according to head of the agency Lars Rekke.

“If flights increase or decline by one percent at LFV airports, that immediately impacts results by 35 to 40 million kronor. If the decline is 10 percent the entire profit disappears, and then some,” Rekke told a radio news program.