IATA Updates Profitabily Outlook At 2023 AGM

IATA offered an updated outlook for airline profitability in 2023 during its AGM in Istanbul, reporting that it expects the industry’s profitability picture is strengthening.

Highlights of IATA’s update include:

  • Airline industry net profits are expected to reach $9.8 billion in 2023 (1.2% net profit margin) which is more than double the previous forecast of $4.7 billion (December 2022).
  • Airline industry operating profits are expected to reach $22.4 billion in 2023, much improved over the December forecast of a $3.2 billion operating profit. It is also more than double the $10.1 billion operating profit estimated for 2022.
  • Some 4.35 billion people are expected to travel in 2023, which is closing in on the 4.54 billion who flew in 2019.
  • Cargo volumes are expected to be 57.8 million tonnes, which has slipped below the 61.5 million tonnes carried in 2019 with a sharp slowing of international trade volumes.
  • Total revenues are expected to grow 9.7% year over year to $803 billion. This is the first time that industry revenues will top the $800 billion mark since 2019 ($838 billion). Expense growth is expected to be contained to an 8.1% annual increase.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA, said: “Airline financial performance in 2023 is beating expectations. Stronger profitability is supported by several positive developments. China lifted COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year than anticipated. Cargo revenues remain above pre-pandemic levels even though volumes have not. And, on the cost side, there is some relief. Jet fuel prices, although still high, have moderated over the first half of the year.”

IATA notes that the return to net profitability, even with a 1.2% net profit margin, is a major achievement.

First, it was achieved at a time of significant economic uncertainties. And second, it follows the deepest losses in aviation’s history ($183.3 billion of net losses for 2020-2022 (inclusive) for an average net profit margin of -11.3% over that period). It should be noted that the airline industry entered the COVID-19 crisis at the end of a historic profit streak that saw an average net profit margin of 4.2% for the 2015-2019 period.

Said Walsh: “Economic uncertainties have not dampened the desire to travel, even as ticket prices absorbed elevated fuel costs. After deep COVID-19 losses, even a net profit margin of 1.2% is something to celebrate! But with airlines just making $2.25 per passenger on average, repairing damaged balance sheets and providing investors with sustainable returns on their capital will continue to be a challenge for many airlines.”

Walsh observed that: “Resilience is the story of the day and there are many good reasons for optimism. Achieving profitability at an industry level after the depths of the COVID-19 crisis opens up much potential for airlines to reward investors, fund sustainability, and invest in efficiencies to connect the world even more effectively. That’s a big ‘to do’ list to achieve with just a 1.2% net profit margin. That’s why we call on governments to keep their focus on initiatives that will strengthen safe, sustainable, efficient, and profitable connectivity.”

And he added that: “Priorities for 2023 include SAF production incentives to accelerate progress toward net zero carbon emissions, ensuring the integrity of CORSIA as the economic measure applied to international aviation, eliminating inefficiencies in air traffic management and applying global standards consistently.”

Emirates to Host 80th IATA AGM in Dubai

During its AGM, IATA announced that Emirates will host the 80th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from June 2 to June 4, 2024.

It will be the first time that the UAE and Dubai will host the global gathering of aviation’s top leaders.

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