The latest Airline Business Index shows the global airline industry’s revenue soared above 2019 levels in the final quarter of 2022, as the sector edged closer to its pre-Covid size.

The revenue score of 105 (2019 = 100) was achieved despite passenger numbers still lagging pre-crisis levels at 84, as high fares and strong demand – amid constrained capacity – powered a standout financial performance for many carriers. Revenue had been at parity with 2019 levels in the third quarter.

While the fleet size was flat at 97 (including aircraft in service and in storage) in the most recent period, the industry’s continued recovery was reflected in the uptick in the employee number score, which now stands at 92.

The overall score of 95 represents a rise of three points from the 30 September 2022 score of 92 and four from the June 2022 score of 91. The latest score is an increase of 36 from the first index, which covered the final quarter of 2020.

The recovery in the key China market is a development that could power further signs of recovery in the next index.

Using data from 14 of the largest airline groups that release quarterly or half-yearly results – covering the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe – the index considers four metrics: size of workforce by employee number, size of fleet, and revenue and passenger numbers at the end of the most recent reporting period – in this case, the fourth quarter of 2022.

It compares those figures with equivalent pre-crisis data from 2019.

Notes: Data from reporting for the three-month period to 31 December 2022 (or nearest half-year period), taken from publicly available records. Workforce and fleet sizes compared with end-2019 levels. Revenue and passenger number metrics compared with data from the equivalent period in 2019. Basket of 14 airlines based on the largest carriers/groups that report quarterly or half-yearly results from FlightGlobal’s World Airline Rankings based on revenues. Overall index score is an average of the scores for the four individual metrics.