Sector developments

Continued significant growth in global passenger traffic

The global air transport industry saw significant increases in passenger traffic in 2023 and so increased its sales. Greater demand for flights, especially to holiday destinations, prompted a further expansion of capacity in global passenger traffic.

Developments at the start of the previous year were still adversely affected by the Omicron coronavirus variant, and in summer by the temporary overload of the air traffic system. The latter continued to have an effect in the reporting year, albeit to a lesser extent.

Total sales worldwide (revenue passenger-kilometres) in the reporting year increased by 37% on the previous year according to figures published by the International Air Transport Associatio (IATA) (previous year: 65%). Airlines from the Asia/Pacific region registered the strongest growth, of 96% (previous year: 32%), followed by airlines from Africa with 36% (previous year: 84%). In the same period, airlines from Europe posted a 20% increase (previous year: 104%).

in % compared with previous year Passenger-kilometres Cargo tonne-kilometres
Europe 20 -4
North America 15 -6
Central and South America 17 2
Asia / Pacific 96 1
Middle East 32 2
Africa 36 -2
Global 37 -2
Source: IATA Air Passenger/Air Freight Market Analysis (12/2023).

Global revenue passenger-kilometres were down by 6% compared with the pre-crisis level of financial year 2019. European airlines reported a decline of 5% from the pre-crisis level, however.

Yields in global passenger traffic increased by 6.2% in financial year 2023 according to IATA (previous year: 9.5%) In the 2023 financial year, average yields thus exceeded the pre-crisis level by 11.0%.

Global freight traffic returns to normal after record levels seen during the pandemic

The global market for airfreight returned to normal in the 2023 financial year compared with the record levels reported during the coronavirus pandemic, but remained at a high level in historical terms. According to IATA, global airfreight volumes (measured in revenue cargo tonne-kilometres) decreased by 2% year-on-year in 2023 (previous year: decline of 8%). European providers saw a decrease of 4% (previous year: decline of 12%).

Average yields in global airfreight traffic decreased by 32.2% year-on-year according to IATA (previous year: increase of 7.0%), due to greater belly capacities for freight in passenger aircraft and the weak global macroeconomic performance. Average yields still exceeded the pre-crisis level by 41.3%, however.

Global airline industry expects profits again

The positive developments in passenger traffic in financial year 2023 mean that the global airline industry expects a significant increase in profits year-on-year. IATA predicts that the industry will realise a net profit of USD 23bn for the 2023 financial year (previous year: net loss of USD 4bn). Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the airline industry generated net profit of USD 26bn in financial year 2019.

On a regional basis, the highest profits are expected in North America at USD 14bn (previous year: USD 9bn).European airlines are forecast to generate net profit of USD 8bn (previous year: USD 4bn).

in USD bn 2023 1) 2022
Europe 8 4
North America 14 9
Central and South America -1 -4
Asia / Pacific 0 -14
Middle East 3 1
Africa -1 -1
Industry 23 -4
1) Forecast
Source: IATA Industry Statistics (12/2023).
MRO market back at pre-crisis level

The aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business also performed well in the reporting year. The strong level of demand for flights prompted a further rise in demand for maintenance and repair services. The advisory company ICF predicted that the market volume will grow by 10% year-on-year in 2023 to USD 92bn (previous year: USD 84bn). This exceeded the pre-crisis level of USD 91bn. Around USD 28bn is attributable to the Americas region (98% of the pre-crisis level), USD 31bn to the EMEA region (Europa, Middle East and Africa, 97% of the pre-crisis level) and USD 33bn to the APAC region (Asia/Pacific 108% of the pre-crisis level). The lifting of all coronavirus restrictions in China in particular made a considerable contribution to the increase in flight hours and thus to demand for maintenance services. Demand in the EMEA and Americas regions was also very strong, although inflation remains high.


Lufthansa Group Annual Report 2023