AILING airlines across the world face losing $9bn (£5.7bn) by the end of the year, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said yesterday, almost doubling the estimate it made in March. <br /><br />Iata’s director general Giovanni Bisignani said it was “the most difficult situation the industry has faced”.<br /><br />British Airways’ chief executive used the data to stress the importance of the carrier’s proposed tie-ups with American Airlines and Spanish flag-carrier Iberia.<br /><br />The case for an alliance is “stronger than ever,” Walsh said.<br /><br />Walsh and his AA equivalent Gerard Arpey have said they are confident they will win approval from US and EU authorities, which will allow them to team up on transatlantic flights by 2010.<br /><br />British Airways will also begin four days of bruising negotiations today with its unions as it seeks to trim £300m off its the wages bill over the next two years in what Walsh has called a “fight for survival” for the airline.<br /><br />BA representatives will meet with Unite, the GMB and pilots’ union Balpa as they attempt to negotiate a cost-cutting deal. <br /><br />Airlines are struggling in the downturn as passenger numbers plummet and demand for air freight crashes. <br /><br />Rising oil prices are also hitting airlines’ earnings, Iata said.<br /><br />Iata said passenger numbers for 2009 would drop eight per cent from last year, while cargo demand would fall 17 per cent. Airlines will spend about $25bn on more than 800 jets in 2009, meaning the industry will consume cash for the second consecutive year, Iata said.