ISTANBUL-Airlines will fly 4.35 billion passengers this year, close to the 2019 record as the industry bounces back from the Covid pandemic, an industry group said on Monday. The sector will also be back in the green, with net profits forecast to reach $9.8 billion in 2023, or double previous estimates, boosted by the end of China’s Covid restrictions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The association added that its 2022 losses were half as bad as previously estimated at $3.6 billion. “Airline financial performance in 2023 is beating expectations,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said in a statement during the association’s annual general meeting in Istanbul. “Stronger profitability is supported by several positive developments. China lifted Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the year than anticipated,” Walsh said. While jet fuel prices remain high, they have moderated over the first half of the year, he added.
Inflation surged worldwide as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sent energy costs soaring, but oil and natural gas prices have fallen since then. “On the cost side, there is some relief,” Walsh said. “Economic uncertainties have not dampened the desire to travel, even as ticket prices absorbed elevated fuel costs,” he added. The pandemic devastated the airline industry, which lost $137 billion when countries imposed lockdowns and closed borders in 2020. The sector lost another $42 billion in 2021 and was still in the red last year as China, a major market, continued to enforce Covid restrictions that were finally lifted in December.