Airlines would end up with as much as US$6.1 billion in losses this year, against a profit of US$5.6 billion last year, if crude oil remained at US$135 a barrel for the next six months, the International Air Transport Association warned. The group yesterday called for government support to regulate monopoly suppliers such as airports and liberalise the aviation market to aid acquisitions and competition. 'Our industry is like Sisyphus,' said Iata director-general and chief executive Giovanni Bisignani, referring to the Greek mythological figure cursed to infinitely repeat a futile task. 'After pushing a giant boulder uphill in a long struggle, the boulder or bad news sends us back down the slope again.' Mr Bisignani was speaking at this year's Iata annual meeting in Istanbul yesterday. Last year was the first year the global aviation industry turned a profit since 2000, but it looks set to slip back into the red this year. With gross margins ranging from 0.3 per cent to 3 per cent for the past 60 years and profits of US$32 billion on sales of US$11 trillion, the aviation industry had always been trying to recover ground, Mr Bisignani said. High oil prices have wiped out the industry's hard work since 2001 to improve fuel margins. If the Brent oil price stays at an average of US$107 per barrel this year, airlines will see losses reaching US$2.3 billion and the fuel bill rising to US$176 billion. The deficit will worsen to US$6.1 billion if crude hovers near US$135 the rest of the year. Iata called for liberalisation and deregulation to let airlines operate anywhere they want and restructure across borders. It also sought a reduction in airport charges worldwide to cope with the fuel crisis. 'Too many airports still live happy days, isolated from commercial disciplines,' Mr Bisignani said. Last year, the airlines' costs of operating from airports increased by US$1.5 billion. 'Look at Heathrow Airport, service standards are a national embarrassment but still the airport raised charges by 50 per cent over the last five years and plans an 86 per cent rise for the next five years,' he said. 'What can I say?' Then, he said in Spanish: 'Basta ya! (Enough is enough).'