Airlines are set to fly almost 5 billion passengers in 2024, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The announcement by the trade industry body on Monday marks a new record for the aviation sector, beating a pre-pandemic high.

In its outlook for 2024, IATA said airlines were expected to post $30.5 billion (€28 billion) in net earnings this year, up from its previous estimate in December of $25.7 billion.

The industry’s total revenues were forecast to rise nearly 10%, to a record $996 billion (€918 billion).

The expected profit “is a great achievement considering the recent deep pandemic losses,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh told the trade association’s annual general meeting in Dubai.

More than 300 airlines, accounting for 83% of global air traffic, are members of IATA.

The body said around half of global profits in 2024 were expected to come from airlines in North America. IATA predictions suggest they will log a surplus of $14.8 billion, while airlines in Europe are expected to increase their profits by between $8.6 billion and $9 billion.

Challenges ahead for airlines

The aviation industry has seen a strong rebound following the slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The growth in low-cost carriers as well as an expanding global middle class have led to more people traveling by plane.

But despite the strong figures, airlines are also facing a sharp rise in costs due to labor shortages, supply chain problems and challenges related to climate change.

Earlier this year, Dubai International Airport was shut down after severe flooding on the runway forced the cancellation of more than 2,000 flights. An international group of scientists that examines extreme weather events found that the extreme rainfall was likely made worse by global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Scientists have also pointed to climate change as a possible reason for an increase in turbulence, following two major in-flight incidents in recent days

At the same time, the industry is facing increasing pressure to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from flights. The aviation sector accounts for around 2% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. These CO2 emissions make up about a third of the global warming effect of air travel. Other factors, such as condensation trails aircraft leave behind, also contribute significantly to warming.

nm/sms (dpa, AFP)

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