Global air travel demand seen soaring 28% to near pre-pandemic level in...

Global air travel demand seen soaring 28% to near pre-pandemic level in 2023

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Global air travel demand seen soaring 28% to near pre-pandemic level in 2023

Global air passenger traffic is expected to soar 28.3 percent to 4.35 billion people in 2023, returning to near the pre-pandemic level of 2019 with Asia-Pacific airlines benefiting from a sharp recovery in demand, according to estimates by an industry body.

The projected passenger number is higher than 3.39 billion fliers in 2022 and represents about 96 percent of the 4.54 billion fliers four years ago, owing to the removal of COVID-19 border control measures, the International Air Transport Association said in a recent report.

Air travel demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs, is expected to rise across the world. Airlines based in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to enjoy the highest growth of 63 percent in demand as every country in the region has ended their pandemic travel restrictions, the association said.

“China lifted COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year than anticipated,” putting the industry on track to improve profitability more quickly, Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general said in a release.

Carriers based in Africa and the Middle East are forecast to see rises of 30.1 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively, in air passenger traffic. Those from Europe will have 19.6 percent growth in air travelers, while North America will see a 16.5 percent jump.

The upbeat air travel demand helps the industry beat IATA’s earlier profit estimate for 2023, said the group that represents some 300 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic.

Combined industry net profits are expected to reach $9.8 billion in 2023, more than double the December forecast of $4.7 billion, the association said. The industry suffered a total net loss of $3.6 billion in 2022.

North American carriers are expected to lead the way with $11.5 billion in net profit, up 26.4 percent from 2022, and net profit at European carriers is projected to soar 24.4 percent to $5.1 billion.

Total revenues are forecast to grow 9.7 percent to $803 billion, or almost 96 percent of the 2019 level, the association said.

Still, there are some economic and geopolitical risks to the industry outlook.

Aggressive interest rate hikes by major central banks to fight inflation pose the risk of recession, while an escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine “would likely have negative prospects for global aviation,” IATA said.