Airlines expected to set a passenger record in 2024

Airlines are projected to carry 4.7 billion passengers in 2024, according to a new IATA forecast, eclipsing the 2019 record of 4.5 billion and completing the industry’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

IATA is also projecting net airline profits next year of $25.7 billion, driven by record revenue of $964 billion. 

Still, IATA director Willie Walsh cautioned that the industry’s net margin is expected to be an all-too modest 2.7%, which is lower than what investors in most other industries would tolerate.

“There is something to be learned from the fact that, on average, airlines will retain just $5.45 for every passenger carried,” Walsh said. “That’s about enough to buy a basic grande latte at a London Starbucks. But it is far too little to build a future that is resilient to shocks for a critical global industry on which 3.5% of GDP depends and from which 3.05 million people directly earn their livelihoods.”

Among the globe’s regions, North America is projected to continue to lead the way next year, recording net profits of $14.4 billion. 

IATA also updated its projection Wednesday for full-year 2023 profits. 

Globally, the trade group now expects net airline profits of $23.3 billion and a net profit margin of 2.6% this year. Those figures are higher than IATA’s forecast from June of a $9.8 billion industrywide net profit and a net profit margin of 1.2%. 

North American airlines will record net profits of $14.3 billion this year, according to the forecast, up from the previous projection of $11.5 billion.

Amex GBT expects flat growth in fares 

As IATA offered its happy forecast for airlines Wednesday, travel management company American Express GBT offered some good news for flyers. Ticket prices should be flat next year, said Amex GBT, with an economy fare increase on North America domestic flights of 0.3% and a premium fare increase of 0.8%.

From North America points of sale, economy tickets will be down 3.5% on flights to Europe, down 7.5% on flights to Asia and down 7.8% on flights to Central America. Economy airfare to South America will be up by a projected 1.3%.

Premium fares will be up 3% on Europe travel and up 0.1% on South America flights, Amex GBT predicted. Premium fares are expected to drop 3% for flights to Asia and 5.7% to Central America.

The forecast is based upon a predictive model that factors in airline capacity data from Cirium, IATA passenger data, inflation and GDP forecasts from the International Monetary Fund and Amex GBT’s own air travel and booking data.

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