The latest Airline Business Index shows the global airline industry’s progress towards its pre-Covid size stalled during the first quarter of 2022, as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 weighed on the performance of most markets.

The overall score of 79 (2019 = 100), represents no change from the score on 31 December 2021. But it is still an increase of seven from the score on 30 September 2021, 13 from the score on 30 June 2021, 19 from the 31 March 2021 result and 20 from the 31 December 2020 index.

Using data from 13 of the largest airline groups that release quarterly results, the index considers four metrics: size of workforce by employee number, size of fleet (in-service and stored), and revenue and passenger numbers at the end of the most recent reporting period – in this case, the first quarter of 2022.

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

In the latest index, a two-point increase in the operating revenue score compared with the previous quarter was offset by a two-point drop in the passenger number score. The business fundamentals, meanwhile, continued to trend at higher levels: fleet size has been largely flat at close to pre-crisis levels since the index was launched in the fourth quarter of 2020, while workforce size held at 14 points off 2019 numbers. 

Before the latest index, the gap between the business fundamentals and the operating performance had been closing rapidly as passenger travel restrictions were relaxed. Most commentary suggests that trend has resumed in the second quarter of 2022, with a note of caution around a potential revenue impact from falling air cargo demand.

On a quarterly basis, FlightGlobal releases an updated Airline Business Index as the industry attempts to recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

Notes: Data from reporting for the three-month period to 31 March 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 13 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.