Air travel reaches pre-pandemic levels but profits suffer

It took four long years for global airline capacity to return to pre-Covid levels - but for passengers and airlines, the industry has changed forever

Oct 10, 2023

This week, global airline capacity is poised to finally surpass its corresponding 2019 levels, based on data from aviation analytics firm Cirium. The return to pre-pandemic flight capacity speaks to airlines’ resilience and ability to adapt to ever-shifting conditions. Still, it’s become a tougher industry in many respects.

Key takeaways

  • Industry profit will be less than 40% of 2019’s level this year, according to the International Air Transport Association. Business travel still hasn’t fully recovered, and it’s unclear when - or indeed if - it will;
  • Travel to and from China remains depressed, keeping a major market largely on the sidelines of the recovery;
  • With prospects for a corporate rebound uncertain, operators are squeezing what they can from leisure’s fading revenge-travel boom.

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