Fuel costs slashed airlines' '79 profits

Soaring fuel costs offset a 12 percent traffic gain in 1979 and led to an $ 800 million decline in airline earnings -- the sharpest one-year drop in the industry's history, the Air Transport Association reports. Fuel costs in 1979 rose 100 percent, from 40 cents to 80 cents a gallon.

Since 1973, airlines have improved their fuel efficiency 43 percent, but fuel costs have rocketed 667 percent.

The $6.5 billion airline industry fuel bill in 1979 was up $2.5 billion over 1978. The bill is expected to hit $10 billion in 1980.

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