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AirlineGeeks’ 2024 Commercial Aviation Outlook

With 2024 nearing, here's what to expect in the commercial aviation sector next year.

The 777X on the taxiway. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

Here we are; 2024 is right around the corner and there are plenty of developments to keep an eye on as the commercial aviation sector looks to write its next post-pandemic chapter. Indeed, the airline industry remains ever-so-cyclical as it morphs into the changing tides of our global economy.

A banner year for some — and for others not so much — 2023 was another key turning point in the continued rush to recovery from the devastating effects of COVID-19. While many regions’ air travel sectors recovered and even exceeded pre-pandemic levels, others still lagged behind. All-in-all, though, 2023 saw a return in the consumer demand to travel, which is a win for airlines. But some carriers weren’t quite ready to meet that demand with adequate capacity.

We’ll take a more in-depth look back at 2023 in a separate post, but here we’ll share our commercial aviation outlook for 2024 and what to watch closely.

Aircraft Manufacturing Woes

Aircraft manufacturers have been far from immune to supply chain woes in recent years. But let’s also not forget about Boeing’s struggles with delivering a variety of its commercial products, including the 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX, mostly due to production hiccups.

As these issues snowball, air carriers wait longer to receive new jets, therefore limiting capacity growth. For the industry to achieve more uniform recovery and scale across global regions in 2024, manufacturers will need to deliver aircraft on time.

Newcomer Airplanes

A few new commercial aircraft are gearing up to be fully certified in 2024. Airbus’ A321XLR is slated for a late 2024 launch, which could be a game-changer for thinner long-haul markets. The Toulouse-based manufacturer currently has 550 orders for the variant.

Airbus’ A321XLR on display at the 2023 Paris Airshow (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Across the pond, Boeing’s 737 MAX 10 — the largest 737 variant to date — is slated to receive its final sign-off by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in late 2024. According to Reuters, Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci is becoming ‘anxious’ for his airline to receive the high-capacity aircraft.

An Eye on Demand

Although demand has largely returned in several markets, some industry leaders and shareholders fear that it may be softening. As costs spiral and the economic landscape continues to change — especially in the U.S. — investors have been left with questions.

For instance, both American and Delta reduced their respective profit outlooks in Q3 2023. “Demand is flashing warning signs,” Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu told Reuters. Leisure travel demand remains strong, and the U.S. even broke a record for Thanksgiving air travel. However, business travel is still down and The U.S. Travel Association doesn’t estimate it to improve to 2019 levels until 2024.

Even with some Wall Street concerns, many industry executives remain bullish that demand is still strong. Demand trends will be an important consideration in 2024.

Labor Disputes Boiling Over

In the U.S., labor disputes in the airline industry are governed by the 1920s-era Railway Labor Act. This piece of legislation stipulates the bargaining process between air carriers and unions. While many high-profile collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) have already been inked, particularly for pilots at major airlines, many remain outstanding.

For example, American, United, and Alaska flight attendants do not have new agreements in place. Last month, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) – which represents over 28,000 American Airlines flight attendants — asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to be released from federal mediation, but was denied.

With some of these disputes heating up in 2024, the federal government may have to balance economic interests with those of the labor groups. If negotiations reach an impasse, a strike or lock-out action becomes increasingly possible.

Going Electric

The sustainable aviation space, including electric-propelled aircraft, is likely to continue turning heads in 2024. While some of these designers are a long way from regular commercial operations,

One such designer – VoloCity – is hoping to complete type certification in time to operate the first revenue eVTOL flights with its two-seat, piloted aircraft during the 2024 Paris Olympic games. Much of the electric space remains in the test phase as regulators sort out operating requirements and more.

United signed a purchase agreement for up to 400 eVTOL aircraft from Eve aiming to revolutionize commuter experience in cities around the world.(Photo: United Airlines)

Consolidation and the Regulatory Landscape

Just like we’ll be watching the 2024 commercial aviation space closely, so will many regulatory agencies. Several high-profile mergers and acquisitions are on the table next year, including JetBlue and Spirit, Hawaiian and Alaska, along with SAS’ tie-up in the Air France-KLM Group.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing to block the proposed $3.6 billion JetBlue-Spirit merger, Hearings concluded earlier this month with a decision expected in early 2024.

It is possible that the JetBlue-Spirit results could set the tone for Alaska’s proposed purchase of Hawaiian, which was just recently announced. Furthermore, 2024 is a presidential election year, creating the possibility for shifting tides in the antitrust enforcement landscape.

In Europe, SAS is set to join the Air France-KLM Group, requiring a handful of regulatory approvals. The Lufthansa Group is also in the market for fellow Star Alliance member TAP Air Portugal,

The commercial aviation landscape is expansive, and these are only a few examples of what to watch next year. The AirlineGeeks team will continue to deliver industry insights, analysis, and storytelling to make our readers more informed.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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