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Record numbers of people are expected to travel in 2024, with an estimated 4.7 billion people traveling on planes, according to a new report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Traveler numbers continue to rebound from the pandemic and are poised to reach and even exceed levels not seen since 2019, when 4.5 billion airline passengers were reported, according to IATA.

“People love to travel and that has helped airlines to come roaring back to pre-pandemic levels of connectivity,” said IATA director general Willie Walsh. “The speed of the recovery has been extraordinary, yet it also appears that the pandemic has cost aviation about four years of growth. [For] 2024, the outlook indicates that we can expect more normal growth patterns for both passenger and cargo.”

The trade association said that airline industry net profits are expected to reach $25.7 billion in 2024, although Walsh noted that a 2.7 percent net profit margin means that airlines “will retain just $5.45 for every passenger carried.” Walsh said industry profits are hampered by regulation, fragmentation, high infrastructure costs and limited completion in its supply chain.”

Record Numbers of People Hopping on Planes Next Year

More people flying than ever also will mean record numbers of flights, with IATA anticipating that 40.1 million flights are expected in 2024, exceeding the 2019 peak of 38.9 million flights.

Passenger surveys indicate that one-third of people say they are traveling more now than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 49 percent saying that their travel habits are about the same and 18 percent saying they travel less now than they did pre-pandemic.

IATA surveys also found that 44 percent of passengers expect to travel more in the next year, while 48 percent said they plan to travel about the same amount and only 7 percent expect to travel less than they did in the previous year.

IATA pointed a rosy picture of traveler satisfaction with air travel, citing surveys showing:

  • 88 percent of passengers say air travel makes their lives better
  • 89 percent said air travel is a necessity of modern life
  • 88 percent believe air travel has a positive impact on society
  • 80 percent viewed air travel as good value for money spent

Measured in 2018 dollars, the average roundtrip airfare in 2023 was $254, compared to an average of $315 in 2019, according to the airline industry group. However, rising oil prices due to wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and other factors, could cause prices to rise. Other threats to industry profits and airfare costs identified by IATA include lagging economic growth, continued problems with supply chains and increased regulation.