The latest Airline Business Index shows the second quarter of this year was marked by soaring revenue and a jump in passenger numbers, as the industry exceeded the 2019 benchmark index score for the first time since the pandemic.

The overall score of 101 (2019 = 100) represents a rise of three points from the 31 March 2023 score of 98 and six from the 31 December 2022 score of 95. The latest score is an increase of 47 from the first index, which covered the second quarter of 2020, when much of the industry was shuttered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new data reflects the global narrative of airlines achieving revenue significantly above 2019 levels with fewer employees, aircraft and passengers – albeit the latter metrics continue to near pre-Covid parity.

The revenue score of 115 marks a rise of six points from the first quarter of this year and again outpaced the recovery in passenger numbers by some distance, in a high-yield, capacity-constrained environment. Passenger numbers were up by five points at 95.

The workforce score was up three points quarter-on-quarter at 97, reflecting the ramping up of hiring heading into the northern hemisphere summer, while fleet size was flat at 98.

At the index’s lowest points in the Covid-19 crisis, workforce and fleet bottomed out at 81 and 95 respectively, compared with a revenue low point of 20 and a lowest passenger-number score of 10 – the latter two seen in the second quarter of 2020.

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 first quarter of 2023.

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

Notes: Data from reporting for the three-month period to 30 June 2023 (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.