Global air travel demand to rise 3 percent above 2019 levels this year: ICAO

Passenger traffic levels expected to surpass pre-pandemic figures by 2 percent in 2024
Global air travel demand to rise 3 percent above 2019 levels this year: ICAO
Airlines forecast total operating profits of $39 billion in 2023, aligning with pre-pandemic levels

In its latest report, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has forecasted a gradual recovery in global air travel, with passenger traffic levels anticipated to exceed pre-pandemic figures in 2024. ICAO forecasts a 3 percent increase in global demand for air travel above 2019 levels. This increase could reach 4 percent if the pace of recovery accelerates in the routes that have not yet reached pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, it expects passenger air traffic levels to be around 2 percent higher than in 2019.

Despite economic challenges, the global aviation industry is expected to sustain its operating profitability, reflecting resilience and adaptability in the face of ongoing uncertainties.

Sustainable growth amidst recovery

In addition to the increase in passenger traffic levels and demand for air travel, ICAO expects the industry to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 0.5 percent over the 2019-2024 period.

The commitment of ICAO member states to the guidance of the ICAO Council has been crucial to the recovery of their air services following the pandemic. Commenting on the report, ICAO Council president Salvatore Sciacchitano stated: “The implementation of ICAO’s post-pandemic guidance is now equally crucial to ensuring the resilience and sustainability of this recovery.”

Despite positive growth forecasts in air travel, ICAO expects global demand for freight tonne-kilometres (FTK) to remain approximately 2 percent below 2019 levels in 2024. This reflects broader economic weaknesses worldwide and a decline in demand.

Decarbonization goals

Juan Carlos Salazar, ICAO secretary general, highlights governments’ goals to decarbonize air transport by 2050. He states that these goals support the sustainability, recovery, and future development of the global air travel network. Moreover, he emphasizes the importance of ICAO’s initiatives in accelerating the development and implementation of the technologies, operational improvements, and cleaner aviation energies that decarbonization requires.

“ICAO’s latest air traffic forecasts are promising for global development and a reminder that the global community must accelerate its sustainability efforts, particularly to assure the production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels in sufficient quantities,” Salazar added.

Read: Saudi Arabia’s air traffic surpasses pre-pandemic levels in 2023 with 112 million passengers

Insights from 2023

ICAO’s analysis of 2023 revealed that air traffic on most routes had already surpassed pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, indicating a near-complete recovery of global air travel at around 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Major regional routes, particularly those within Europe, North America and the Middle East, demonstrated robust performance, with significant traffic growth. However, most international Asian routes, except for those serving South West Asia, continue to record lower levels in 2023 compared to 2019.

Despite challenges such as high fuel prices and economic uncertainties, airlines forecast total operating profits of $39 billion in 2023, aligning with pre-pandemic levels. Productivity gains and increased passenger yields contributed to this profitability, with airlines in North America and Europe emerging as key beneficiaries.

For more news on logistics, click here.

The stories on our website are intended for informational purposes only. Those with finance, investment, tax or legal content are not to be taken as financial advice or recommendation. Refer to our full disclaimer policy here.