The global airline industry’s net profit is forecast to hit $35.5 billion in 2019, slightly ahead of the $32.3 billion expected this year.

Lower oil prices and solid, albeit slower, economic growth of 3.1% are extending the run of profits for carriers after profitability was squeezed by rising costs in 2018, according to Iata.

Passenger numbers are projected to rise from 4.34 billion to 4.59 billion next year.

Passenger revenues, excluding ancillaries, are expected to reach $606 billion, up from $564 billion this year.

It is expected that 2019 will be the tenth year of profit and the fifth consecutive year where airlines deliver a return on capital that exceeds the industry’s cost of capital, creating value for its investors.

The 2019 industry outlook is based on an anticipated average oil price of $65 a barrel which is lower than the $73 per barrel seen this year, following an increase in US oil output and rising oil inventories.

The full impact of this decline will be delayed due to heavy levels of hedging in some regions.

Fuel is expected to account for 24.2% of the average airline’s operating costs – an increase from 23.5% forecast for 2018.

European carriers are expected to report a slightly reduced $7.4 billion net profit in 2019 as intense competition keeps yields low and regulatory costs remain high.

“The region has recovered from the terrorist attacks of 2016. But in 2018 it suffered additional costs of $2 billion due to a 61% increase in delay minutes caused by air traffic control deficiencies,” Iata said.

“Looking to 2019, high levels of hedging in the region will mean that the positive impact of lower oil prices will be delayed.”

Iata director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: “We had expected that rising costs would weaken profitability in 2019.

“But the sharp fall in oil prices and solid GDP growth projections have provided a buffer.

“So we are cautiously optimistic that the run of solid value creation for investors will continue for at least another year.

“But there are downside risks as the economic and political environments remain volatile.”

He added: “Air travel has never been such a good deal for consumers.

“Not only are fares staying low, the options for travellers are expanding. Some 1,300 new direct links between cities were opened in 2018. And 250 million more journeys by air occurred in 2018 than in 2017.”