As 2023 continues, there is a lot of attention in the aviation industry. Most regions saw a strong post-pandemic recovery last year, restoring confidence for airlines and passengers alike. Still, there are ongoing industry challenges and ongoing delays with a few new planes. Progress is being made in many areas of new technology and long-term sustainability, and there are several milestones expected throughout the year.
Increased costs but return to profitability
Airlines are recovering in 2022, but the industry overall is still at a loss. 2023 will be the year this changes for the first time in three years. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced in December that it expects the airline industry to return to profitability in 2023.
This is encouraging, but still expected to be somewhat behind pre-pandemic levels. An estimated $4.7 billion industry profit (compared to a loss of $6.9 billion in 2022 and a loss of $42 billion in 2021) would yield a margin of only 0.6%. In 2019, this margin was 3.1%.
Photo: Markus Mainka/Shutterstock
This is despite the fact that the costs remain high. Rising inflation, supply chain problems and high fuel prices are likely to continue to be problems in 2023. By contrast, travel volume will reach 85.5% of pre-pandemic levels globally (according to IATA estimates). Regarding cargo, revenue is expected to remain above pre-pandemic levels (albeit lower than 2022 highs).
Increased flight tickets
The return on profitability is of course great news for the industry, but not all is positive for airline passengers. Rising costs and industry challenges have led to wage increases in 2022 that will continue into 2023.
A report from American Express Global Business Travel predicts an increase globally, but with large regional variations. Some of the highest increases are projected for domestic Australian flights, with a 19.4% increase in business class travel. Fees from Europe to Asia could see increases of up to 12% in economy class (and just under 10% in business class). More modest increases of 5.5% are projected for domestic flights and around 3% for US domestic flights.
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Ongoing travel disruption
There is more bad news for travelers and possibly ongoing travel disruptions. The last two to three years have brought many travel disruptions. After moving away from restrictions and curfews during the pandemic process, many other factors came to the fore instead. Inflation, staffing difficulties and widespread industrial action have increased travel problems and uncertainty. In Europe, the war in Ukraine and the effects of Brexit brought additional challenges.
Unfortunately, there are few signs that this is changing rapidly. Personnel issues and industrial action remain key issues as we enter 2023. It was also strongly reminded that COVID and related disruptions did not disappear. As China opens its borders, countries are quickly responding once again with massive travel restrictions.
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More delays with the Boeing 777X
The new Boeing 777X is one of the most anticipated aircraft launches in a while. Building on the success of the 777, it is poised to introduce a new, more efficient high-capacity option to replace the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380. There are 353 777X aircraft ordered from ten airlines. Emirates takes the lead with an incredible 115 aircraft to order (according to Boeing data).
Photo: Vidit Luthra/Shutterstock
When it was first released, the 777X was targeted to enter service in 2020, so it should be in good use by 2023. But several delays delayed testing, with the expected delivery date being delayed several times to 2024 or 2025. The 2022 of problems with GE9X engines will potentially delay this even further. According to comments from Emirates CEO Sir Tim Clark, Boeing said that this could delay testing until the summer of 2023, and even that could be at risk.
At the end of December, flight tests resumed with one of the four aircraft. It’s definitely a place to watch in early 2023, where testing takes place and the response from the FAA and airlines (Tim Clark has raised the possibility of Emirates canceling his order several times).
More turns of the A380
Sticking to the big planes, we’ll see a lot more A380s in 2023. This has gradually returned to service since it was almost completely grounded during the pandemic. But at the beginning of 2022, about a third of the global A380 fleet was in the sky again. Until September, there were 88 weekly flights.
Photo: Thiago B Trevisan | verified
With various commitments made throughout 2022, more planes will fly in 2023. Lufthansa announced in June that the A380 will return to service in the summer of 2023 – how many are still unconfirmed, but recent reports say it will be back in operation “at least three times”. ” aeroplane. Etihad Airways made a similar commitment later in the year.
This means we will see ten operators of the A380 by summer 2023 – up to 70% of all operators are spares:
Other operators, Air France, retired its fleet in 2020 and China Southern in late 2022. Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways have no announced plans, but Malaysia Airlines is sending its aircraft to warehouse in France.
Airbus A321XLR should get certification
The Airbus A321XLR is another highly anticipated aircraft. It has additional fuel tanks for extended range and has already proven to be a very popular option for airlines.
At year’s end, a test plane made a 13-hour flight around Europe (it even drew “XLR” over the Atlantic on its route map). In service, it won’t be flying that long – Wizz Air, for example, will use its 47 aircraft on flights between six and eight hours.
The new aircraft was expected to enter service in 2023, but this has now slipped into the first half of 2024. But operations with four test aircraft will begin in 2023. Hopefully we’ll see it approved for entry into service in 2024.
More Chinese aircraft orders in 2023
Chinese aviation is advancing rapidly, and 2022 marks key events for the two current major commercial aircraft development.
COMAC’s ARJ21 regional jet has seen its first delivery to an overseas airline (Indonesian regional carrier TransNusa Airlines). The airline plans to take delivery of another aircraft in early 2023. This is a great first for COMAC.
2022 was also a turning point for COMAC’s larger C919 aircraft. It received Chinese certification in September and the first aircraft was delivered to China Eastern in December. 2023 will undoubtedly see more deliveries (only China airlines has ordered the plane so far), and now that the plane has been approved, it will receive more attention.
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Beware of 100% SAF transatlantic flight
The use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is advancing rapidly in 2022 and is an important part of a short-term emissions reduction strategy. However, overall utilization remains low and mixing ratios with standard fuel are high. This will continue to change in 2023 and beyond, with more airlines adopting SAF and more corporate and government projects. IATA’s previous estimates were that SAF could account for 2% of all aviation fuel by 2025.
It is important to lower the SAF price as high percentages are allowed in the blending. Most current commercial aircraft are 50% SAF blend compliant. Aircraft and engine manufacturers want to increase this percentage to 100% (for example, Airbus claims by 2030).
One of the key developments to watch out for in 2023 is the first planned net zero emissions transatlantic flight. This is part of the UK government and industry program and is targeting a 2023 demonstration flight using 100% SAF. This will be a true transatlantic flight 100% operated by SAF, not a hybrid flight created using a “booking and request system” from other flights, as Etihad Airways did with its net zero flight to Sharm el-Sheikh in 2022.
This is planned in partnership with Virgin Atlantic, with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines operating between London Heathrow and New York JFK. Dates are still to be confirmed.
Electricity and hydrogen energy developments
While SAF will make a bigger difference in commercial aviation in the short term, electric and hydrogen power has strong potential in the long term. Big changes for large aircraft are far away, in 2023 we will see continued progress in testing, development and smaller aircraft operations.
In 2023, we should see ZeroAvia fly the Dornier 228 aircraft with a prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain. It was certified to fly just at the end of 2022, and ZeroAvia is targeting the first commercial flight in 2024.
Photo: Oliver Kay / ZeroAvia
We should also see more from Rolls-Royce and its hydrogen project in partnership with easyJet. It first tested the AE 2100 turbofan test engine on the ground in 2023. Later plans include switching to a hydrogen-fueled jet engine (with the aim of enabling smaller planes to fly in the 2030s). No timeline has been disclosed for this.
A few new airlines to watch out for in 2023
As aviation continues to recover, some new airlines have plans to start flying in 2023. In the US, we should see the start of flights with the new Northern Pacific Airways. The low-cost startup currently has four Boeing 757-200 aircraft (and possibly more on the way) but has yet to enter service. In Europe, new leisure flights are available from Summer 2023 with Condor’s new partner airline, Marabu.
Photo: North Pacific Airways
In Africa, Ghana’s new national airline, GhanaAirlines, plans to start service in 2023. In late 2022, it was announced that Ashanti Airlines had formed a new Ghanaian airline, beating Ethiopian Airlines and Egyptair. We should also see much more of Nigeria’s new airline, ValueJet. It fought its first CRJ-900 civil war in October 2022 with new planes and routes.
There is so much more happening in aviation in 2023 – it was just a choice. Feel free to comment and further discuss what you’ve watched (positive or negative!).