The global airline industry is expected to return to profitability in 2023 for the first time in four years.
In a forecast released Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association predicted that airlines will earn a net profit of $4.7 billion, despite fears of a global recession.
It would mark the first time the sector has made money since 2019, as fliers return to the skies after years of Covid-19 restrictions reduced demand for flights.
The industry association also said net losses for 2022 were expected to be $6.9 billion. That’s less than it had previously forecast and “significantly better” than both 2021 and 2020.
Willie Walsh, the director general of IATA, called the projection “a great achievement.” But the industry still has work to do to shore up its financial position, he emphasized.
“A $4.7 billion profit on industry revenues of $779 billion also illustrates that there is much more ground to cover to put the global industry on a solid financial footing,” he said.
Consumer demand for air travel has been boosted by the reopening of borders closed by the pandemic, as well as a strong US dollar that’s encouraged more Americans to travel overseas. Corporate travel has also been making a comeback.
At the same time, constraints remain on the supply of flights, including delayed plane deliveries, pilot shortages and airport infrastructure issues.
Nonetheless, the industry is increasingly optimistic, even as a global economic downturn looms.
“While we are mindful of macroeconomic headwinds, the travel industry is experiencing a counter-cyclical recovery,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said when delivering the company’s earnings results in October.
“Global demand is continuing to ramp [up] as consumers shift spend to experiences, businesses return to travel and international markets continue to reopen.”
— Chris Isidore contributed reporting.