updated 1/10/2007 7:48:38 AM ET 2007-01-10T12:48:38

The leading trade group for big U.S. airlines projected on Tuesday that passenger and cargo carriers will net an estimated $4 billion this year.

“The outlook for 2007 is the most promising in years, thanks to a healthy revenue environment and the realization of extensive cost-reduction efforts,” said John Heimlich, the chief economist for the Air Transport Association.

The group estimates the major carriers will report 2006 earnings of between $2 billion and $3 billion. The airlines last reported consecutive annual profits in 1999-2000.

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