Trade Group Says SARS Has Affected Airlines More Than Sept. 11, Iraq War Combined

SARS (search) has caused more damage to the global airline industry than the Sept. 11 (searchattacks and the war in Iraq combined, the world's airline association said Thursday.

"This is a crisis of major proportions," Thomas Andrew Drysdale, regional director for the International Air Transport Association, told a meeting of Asian airport managers in the Philippines (search). The world's airlines have lost more than $10 billion this year, he said.

He told reporters that the combined effects of the Sept. 11 (search) terror attacks, the war in Iraq and the foot and mouth disease in Britain did not cause as much damage to the industry as SARS.

"At no time in the history of aviation have we ever seen declines of the magnitude that we are now seeing in the Asian region as a result of SARS," he said. "Virtually every airline in the world is affected."

Drysdale warned of even bigger losses over the next few months if no measures are taken to contain the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which has killed more than 580 people and infected about 7,600, most of them in Asia.

Representatives from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations were joined by airport officials from China, Japan and South Korea at the two-day meeting. They were discussing how to standardize anti-SARS measures at Asia's airports in a bid to restore the confidence of air travelers and prevent the virus from spreading.