The airline industry remains likely to return to profit next year, with high employment levels and growth in key economies sustaining demand even as household bills spiral, the head of its main lobby group said.
Carriers should achieve positive earnings in 2023 for the first time since 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic roiled global travel, International Air Transport Association Director General Willie Walsh said in an interview Monday.
“We still see a path to profitability. We’ll review it, but I don’t see a major revision,” Walsh said of the financial projections, which IATA is due to update in briefings next month.
A recovery in passenger traffic should also continue into next year despite economic headwinds, before returning to pre-Covid levels in 2024, Walsh said at the Airlines 2022 conference in London. The upbeat tone matches IATA’s prediction in June, when Walsh predicted his industry’s return to profitability, particularly as airlines in North America enjoy a strong comeback.
Carriers are expected to post a collective deficit of $9.7 billion this year, with a bumper summer having failed to make up for losses earlier in 2022 when flights were disrupted by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Walsh said, reiterating a forecast first issued in June.
Walsh said that there are still pockets of concern going into 2023. Asian markets, which have lagged behind the global rebound amid continuing Covid curbs, are likely to pick up more, but the recovery of China in particular still dependent on the government’s approach to containing the virus, he said.
A slow ramp up in flights at London’s Heathrow airport, combined with the fallout from Brexit, is holding back the UK recovery, he said, while the Netherlands risks squandering a national asset as it caps flights at Amsterdam Schiphol amid a environmentally inspired clampdown.