IATA chief tracks recovery path

SINGAPORE, 20 February 2024: The global airline performance during 2023 reached 94% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels driven partly by a strong performance in domestic markets, almost 4% ahead of 2019, with international markets achieving 88% of full recovery, International Air Transport Association director general Willie Walsh told the Changi Aviation Summit in Singapore on Monday.

“If we look at the Asia Pacific, the situation was slightly less than that, overall at 86% of where the region was in 2019. The strong performance in domestic markets is over 2% ahead, but international travel in the region still lagged at about 73% of the 2019 level. It is important to point out that there was a strong recovery as we went through the year, moving from about 57% in January to almost 83% in December.”

Photo credit: IATA. Willie Walsh IATA director-general.

Looking forward, IATA estimates that over the next 20 years, the industry will grow at about 3.3% annually. 

“That is significantly lower than the growth we witnessed during 2010 to 2019. But I think it reflects some of the challenges that we as an industry will face going into the future. Infrastructure constraints both in the air and on the ground. Supply chain issues have been a feature of the industry for several years and will likely continue for a few more years. The delay and delivery of new aircraft, the problems in relation to engines, labour shortages in some parts of the world, and significantly the cost impact of our transition to net zero in 2050,” said Walsh.

“Because whatever way you look at this, a cost will be associated with transitioning to net zero. And ultimately, those costs will have to be reflected in the ticket prices we charge our customers, dampening the growth level the industry sees going forward.”

Walsh identified some of the challenges airlines face, focusing on the environment. He noted that the industry was committed to achieving net zero CO2 by the 2050 deadline. 

“We cannot fail or falter in our efforts to achieve that goal. We must work together to ensure that we can credibly provide people with confidence that we have a pathway to decarbonise our industry. And I think we can take a lot of confidence from what we’ve achieved already.

“If you compare the CO2 produced by the industry in 2000 and compare that to what we did in 2019, just before the pandemic, our CO2 footprint increased by almost 54%. But during that same period, passenger traffic grew by 175%. So, there is a complete disconnect between passenger growth and our C02 growth. 

“We know that we can be confident that with the measures we’ve put in place, with the advances in new technology, there are opportunities for us to address this critical issue,” the IATA chief told the summit audience.


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