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2024: A Return to 
Normal?  — December 2023

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After four years of the catastrophic crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world’s airline industry is finally approaching recovery to the level of activity seen in 2019: the latest IATA estimates suggests that total passenger numbers in 2023 will only have been 4.8% below pre-pandemic levels, with load factors at 82% on a par; and that forecast passenger numbers in 2024, of 4.7bn, should exceed 2019 levels by 4.5%. Is everything back to the status quo ante pestem?

In December, IATA made a major revision to its annual forecast of the airline industry’s financial performance from the version it presented to the group’s AGM in June. Traffic was performing better than earlier expected, and IATA estimates that the global industry will have carried 4.3bn pax in 2023, 22% higher than the year before and 94% of the level in 2019, having in its previous forecast in June expected a 12% shortfall. With the opening of border restrictions, long haul traffic grew faster and demand in RPK is estimated to have grown by 38%. IATA expects a further increase in passenger numbers in 2024 of 10% to 4.7bn — 4% higher than the previous record in 2019, but 7% below what we might have expected from the long term trend (see graph).


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