Europe1 .fr , with AFP // Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP 11:56, 06 December 2023

Airlines have recovered from the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. They expect 4.7 billion passengers on their planes next year and record net profits.

Airlines expect to carry 4.7 billion passengers worldwide next year, an "all-time record" surpassing the 4.54 billion in 2019, before the health crisis, their main organization said on Wednesday. By this year, carriers will have erased the effects of Covid-19 from their accounts, returning to the green with cumulative net profits of $23.3 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), which has more than doubled its previous projections of $9.8 billion, published last June.

The consequences of Covid have disappeared

The organization forecast 4.29 billion air travel this year, a slight downward revision from the 4.35 billion announced in June. For 2024, profits are expected to "largely stabilize" at $25.7 billion, according to IATA, on an unprecedented global revenue of $964 billion, compared with an estimated $896 billion for 2023 and $838 billion in 2019.

As one of the economic sectors most affected by the health crisis, due to border closures and other travel restrictions, airlines suffered cumulative losses of some $183 billion between 2020 and 2022. "Given the massive losses of recent years," the expected profits in 2024 "illustrate the resilience of the aviation sector," IATA Director General Willie Walsh said, praising the "extraordinary pace of recovery."

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Still, "it looks like the pandemic has cost the industry four years of growth," Walsh remarked at a "press day" at his organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. "From 2024 onwards, forecasts show that we can expect more normal growth trajectories for both passengers and freight," according to the chief executive.

The strong recovery in 2023 has resulted in high ticket prices as travel demand outstrips airlines' capacity, constrained by delayed aircraft deliveries and other operational difficulties. Without reversing, this trend looks set to slow down in 2024, according to IATA. At the same time, aircraft load factors have already returned to pre-crisis levels.