IATA AGM 2023 6 June 2023, Istanbul, Turkey WWW.IATA.ORG CREDIT: Natalia Mroz/ IATA

Airlines celebrate survival and ask how long this normal will last

Jubilation with a heavy dose of uncertainty.

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Release Date
June 16, 2023
Airlines celebrate survival and ask how long this normal will last
A sort of euphoria marked the International Air Transport Association’s Annual General Meeting in Istanbul earlier this month, the kind that can accompany a near death experience. 

Airline leaders are largely celebrating the end of the pandemic and looking forward to a rosier future. Or so they said, but beneath the sparkly rhetoric lurked uncertainty about the new world that lies ahead, one that is so different from 2019 that the comparisons have become largely meaningless.

Related: How the war in Ukraine transformed Finnair

The IATA gathering tends to take the temperature of the end users of the world’s commercial aerospace hardware, setting the tone for the broader aviation industry mood heading into the upcoming Paris Air Show. Yet, the elation of having survived a global pandemic at all and the subsequent significant underestimation in the resilience of air travel demand masks the longer-term concerns once the industry returns to growth.

That crossover point is now in sight. It should come sometime in October when — for the first time — scheduled global capacity should be greater than the same point in 2019, according to data from Cirium’s Diio. The 551 billion available seat miles scheduled to be flown are 1% greater than 2019. However, in a supply-constrained world, total seats flying will be 2% greater than 2019 yet with 4.1% fewer flights, each taking off with an average of 159 seats — 10 more than four years ago.

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