Issue No. 878

Autumn Strength

Airlines Will Still Be Chasing Pent-Up Travel Demand

Pushing Back: Inside the Issue

Fall? What fall? It still feels like summer for U.S. airlines, judging from comments by several carriers at an investor event last week. Peak, summer-like demand persists despite the change of seasons, as new financial guidance from United makes clear. Even better, fuel prices have dropped.

Fuel prices, more ominously, are creating economic havoc in Europe, from the edges of Ukraine’s battlefields to the grieving British Isles, which now has a new prime minister and monarch. The challenges of pricey jet fuel, made worse by currency weakness, have just claimed the life of one small airline — Romania’s Blue Air. Will others follow this winter? SAS is already bankrupt and scrapping planes. Finnair has giant problems with its strategic Asian ace card taken away. As for Europe’s largest airline, Lufthansa, labor unrest, not fuel, has been the chief challenge this month. It did manage to strike a new pilot deal last week, but not before more strikes led to more flight cancellations.

Flight cancellations are the least of China Eastern’s problems. Together with Air China and China Southern, Shanghai’s largest airline amassed a gargantuan $5 billion in net losses just in the second quarter. If there’s any silver lining, it is IATA’s latest data showing that Chinese traffic — domestic traffic, at least — started to pick up again this summer. More generally, IATA’s July figures underscored the ongoing recovery in global air traffic, which in some markets even exceeds pre-crisis levels. U.S. airports, in fact, were busier this Labor Day weekend than they were during the same holiday period three years ago, according to TSA figures.

In other developments, India’s increasingly dominant domestic airline IndiGo has an all-star CEO now at the helm, namely Pieter Elbers of longtime KLM notoriety. Ethiopian Airlines is looking to reassert its market power in Africa. Atlanta was once again the world’s busiest airport last year. And all the fuss about supersonic revivalism might be without merit — Boom can’t even find an engine maker.

Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

Chinese airlines struggled mightily during the first half of the year under the country's zero-Covid policy. The Big 3 all lost money but China Eastern, based in Shanghai — which suffered several lockdowns — lost the most. Edward Russell and Jay Shabat discuss the situation and how it may be turning around. Plus, Orlando Airport's new $2.8 billion terminal. Listen to this week’s episode to find out. A full archive of the 'Lounge is here.

Weekly Skies

Quite simply, Finnair's world has changed. The airline, which for years managed a functional if not-very-profitable business flying between Europe and Asia, can’t ride that pony anymore. The indefinite closure of Russian airspace to European carriers has added as much…


Ethiopian Airlines is preparing to restart its pre-pandemic campaign for a 100-seater aircraft as passenger numbers near 2019 levels. Speaking in Washington, D.C., earlier in September, group CEO Mesfin Tasew Bekele said traffic was on track to exceed pre-Covid levels…

Routes and Networks

Ethiopian Airlines plans to expand its presence in the U.S. The airline will add frequencies between Washington Dulles and Lomé, Togo — a route it launched in June — by the end of the year with an aim of daily…

Landing Strip

Zurich Airport, in its latest earnings call, gave an update on the new airport in India’s capital that it's helping to build. Development of Delhi’s new Noida International Airport is “proceeding to plan,” with scheduled completion targeted for the end…

Feature Story

“If there’s a worse place than hell, I’m in it.” So said President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. And so must have felt United Airlines executives during its two-plus years of Covid agony.

By the Numbers

China's six major airlines that are publicly traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange posted a collective net loss (gasp!) of $6.6 billion during just the three months of April, May, and June. That's about equal to their entire revenue total,…