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Traffic and profit losses set US airline records

The nation's scheduled airlines showed a decline of about 5 percent in revenue-passenger-miles in 1980 -- the largest in history -- and record operating losses of nearly $200 million, preliminary results show. However, there are indications of a return to modest profits in 1981.

In a state-of-the-industry report on 1980 results and 1981 projections, Goerge W. James, senior vice-president for economics and finance of the Air Transport Association, said he expects the 1981 volume of the industry's revenue-passenger- miles to range from a decline of 2 percent to a gain of 2 percent and described such a performance as "about flat."

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Mr. James projected a 1981 operating profit level of about $750 million, a return of less than 2 percent on revenues of some $38 billion, but a turnaround from the industry's 1980 operating losses. A number of key assumptions underlie both the traffic and financial projections for 1981, Mr. James stressed.