After several years of lost growth resulting from the Covid pandemic, airlines will finally surpass 2019 passenger traffic levels next year IATA projects in its latest outlook.

The airline association in its first forecast for 2024 issued today in Geneva expects scheduled airline passenger volumes to top 4.7 billion next year. That is growth of over 400 million on the 4.3 billion passengers airlines are set to carry this year and higher than the 4.5 billion flown in 2019 before the pandemic hit. Passenger volumes had dropped to under 1.8 billion in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

Atlanta Airport Shutterstock

Source: Markus Mainka/

Total passenger numbers across the industry are set to reach a new high of 4.7 billion in 2024

Airline passenger traffic, as measured in revenue passenger kilometre (RPK), is also expected to be 4.5% above 2019 levels.

Notably IATA expects passenger traffic growth of almost 10% next year to outpace an additional 9% of capacity, leading to a further improvement in passenger load factor. This would take industry passenger load factor back up to 82.6% – in line with 2019 levels.

The strong passenger market performance will drive another year of record revenues. IATA already expects passenger revenues to reach $642 billion - surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time – and to climb again in 2024 to $717 billion.

Global passenger number and revenue snapshot
 2024 forecast2023 estimated 2022202120202019
 Source: IATA December 2023 forecast
Passenger numbers 4.7bn 4.3bn 3.5bn 2.3bn 1.8bn 4.5bn
Passenger revenues $717bn $642bn $436bn   $242bn   $189bn   $607bn  
Cargo revenues $111bn $135bn $207bn $210bn $140bn $101bn
Total revenues $964bn $896bn $736bn $513bn $384bn $838bn

A normalising in the air cargo market, which had generated record high revenues of over $200 billion during the crisis, though means these are estimated to have dropped to $135 billion this year and to fall again next year to $111 billion.

However despite this both cargo yields and revenues are still expected to remain above pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Taken together with the strong passenger demand, it means total revenues – which reached a new high of $896 billion this year – are projected to rise 7.6% to a new high of $964 billion in 2024.

IATA today estimated the industry will record a collective net profit of around $23 billion in 2023, returning to the black for the first time in three years, and a modest rise to almost $26 billion in 2024.