Expect the cost of your airfare to continue to rise, an aviation trade group and industry heads warn

The cost of your next flight is likely to go up

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The cost of your next flight is likely to go up.

That's the word from the International Air Transport Association, which held its annual meeting Monday in Dubai, home to the long-haul carrier Emirates.

While carriers recover from the groundings worldwide from the coronavirus pandemic, industry leaders told journalists that there are several costs likely to push those ticket prices ever higher.

Part of that comes from worldwide inflation, an ongoing problem since the pandemic started. Jet fuel costs, roughly a third of all airline expenses, remain high. Meanwhile, a global push for the aviation industry to decarbonize has more carriers fighting for the little amount of so-called sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, available in the market.

“The airlines will continue to do everything they can to keep costs in control as much as possible for the benefit of consumers," said Willie Walsh, the director-general of the the International Air Transport Association, an industry-trade group. "But I think it’s unrealistic to expect that airlines can continue to absorb all of the costs. ... It's not something we like to do, but it's something we have to do.”

Also pressuring the industry is a pandemic hangover in aircraft production as well, they say. Carriers now keep older planes that burn more fuel flying longer. There also aren't enough new aircraft to expand routes and increase supply to bring down overall prices.

That warning comes as the IATA estimates globally, airline revenue will reach nearly $1 trillion in 2024, a record high. There will be 4.96 billion travelers on airplanes this year, with total expenses for carriers reaching $936 billion — another record high.

But industry profits also are expected to be nearly $60 billion this year.

In particular, Emirates, a main driver for Dubai's economy, saw record profits of $4.7 billion in 2023 off revenues of $33 billion.

The Emirates' results track with those for its base, Dubai International Airport. The world's busiest airport for international travelers had 86.9 million passengers last year, surpassing numbers for 2019 just before the coronavirus pandemic grounded global aviation.

The airport now plans to move to the city-state's second, sprawling airfield in its southern desert reaches in the next 10 years in a project worth nearly $35 billion.

Tim Clark, the airline's president, obliquely acknowledged that Monday by saying that he didn't want people to “get boxes of tissues out and play the violins” when warning that the industry's profit margins sit in the low single digits. However, he contended that as airlines have grown larger and carriers consolidated, cost savings have quietly been passed onto consumers now able to book flights across the world.

“It is quite amazing that ticket prices are where they are today," Clark said. "I think the value-for-money proposition that the consumers have had the benefit from for many decades is something that is one of those hidden bits of the narrative.”

Yvonne Manzi Makolo, the CEO of RwandAir, also highlighted the taxes and fees imposed on carriers by the countries they operate in. She specifically cited those paid by carriers flying out of African nations as “already ridiculous.”