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AirlineGeeks Year in Review: 2023

Here are the stories that shaped commercial aviation in 2023.


Various Boeing 737 MAX aircraft sit in storage at Boeing Field in Washington. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

Undoubtedly, 2023 was another historic year for the aviation industry. On a global scale, airlines continued to blossom again following turbulent COVID-19 times. With vaccine availability increasing around the world, the industry slowly recovered: countries loosened restrictions, opened borders and once again welcomed travel.

As we fly into a new and promising year for the commercial aviation sector, let’s take a moment to look back at some of this year’s biggest headlines. The articles below are listed in chronological order and relevant articles may be linked in each header.


The last Boeing 747 ever built taking off on its delivery flight. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

737 MAX Resumes Flying in China

Boeing’s 737 MAX gained approval from CAAC, the Chinese aviation authority, to fly again. This is followed by the long-awaited resumption of delivery to Chinese carriers at the end of 2023.

Boeing’s Production of Final 747

The Queen of the Sky rolled out of the final assembly line in Everett for the last time with the very last unit, a Boeing 747-8 Freighter, completed.

Ethiopian Strengthens Network to the U.S. and China

Ethiopian continued to strengthen its position as the key connecting player into Africa with the launch of the flight to Atlanta from Addis Ababa and the restoration of pre-covid capacity to China, with flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.

Newark Opens New Terminal A

The new Terminal A opened 21 of the 33 gates, which now serve Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue, and some United Airlines flights, after several delays to the planned openings.

Boeing Delivers Last Ever 747 to Atlas

On Jan. 31, 2023, Boeing delivered the last Boeing 747 ever built to its owner, Atlas Air. The delivery marks an end to the iconic jet’s 54-year production run at Boeing’s Everett factory, with a total of 1,574 units built. It also marks a real end to an era in aviation regarded by many to be one of the most thrilling.


Qantas A350-1000 Wellbeing Zone (Photo: Qantas)

IAG Acquires Full Control of Air Europa

International Airlines Group (IAG) agreed to purchase the remaining 80% stake of Air Europa that it did not already own from Spanish company Globalia. In announcing strong financial results for 2022 and a positive outlook for 2023, IAG revealed that it had finalized an agreement to pay 400 million Euros ($422 million) to acquire full control of the Spanish airline.

Qantas Reveals Project Sunrise cabin

With much anticipation, Qantas revealed the cabin design of its A350-1000s which are set to operate the routes in Project Sunrise. The cabin features a ‘wellness zone’ where passengers can relax on the soon-to-be world’s longest flight. The initial routes include flights to London and New York.

Air India Places Massive Order from Airbus

Air India ordered 250 aircraft in total from European manufacturer Airbus. The order includes 40 A350s to be split between the -900 and -1000 variants.

Starlux Launches First Long-Haul Route to LAX

Taiwanese carrier Starlux launched flights between Taipei Taoyuan and Los Angeles International Airport, marking its entry into the long haul and trans-pacific market. The route was later joined by a connection to San Francisco later this year and both are operated by A350-900.


JetBlue and Spirit’s combined route network. (Photo: JetBlue)

Emirates-United Partnership Takes Off

Once unthinkable, Emirates and United launched a strategic partnership including redemption schemes, interline agreements and resulted in the launch of United flight between Newark and Dubai.

Lufthansa Orders Widebody from Airbus and Boeing

The Lufthansa Group announced an order which included 22 aircraft consisting of Airbus A350-1000s and A350-900s along with Boeing 787-9s valued at 7.5 billion dollars. This announcement also included a timeline for the ill-fated four-engine aircraft and older fleet types operated under the group.

JetBlue-Spirit Merger Delayed by DOJ Lawsuit

The United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that they would launch a lawsuit to block the $3.8 billion JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines merger that has been in the works since July 2022.

Riyadh Air Order All Boeing Fleet

Boeing announced that Riyadh Air — the brand new Saudi Arabian national carrier — would order 39 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options for 33 more of the 787-9 variant . This announcement came at the same time flag carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines, SAUDIA, also placed an order for 39 787 Dreamliners, with options for an additional 10.


EU Introduces New Sustainable Fuel Mandates

Two percent of aviation fuel supplied at European Union airports needs to be comprised of sustainable aviation fuels by 2025, this grows to six percent in 2030, 20% in 2035, and all the way up to 70% by 2050.

Clashes in Sudan Shut Down Airport and Damage Aircraft

Violent clashes on April 15 between the Sudanese military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group erupted in the capital city of Khartoum, leading to the closure of Khartoum International Airport (KRT) and the destruction of two parked aircraft.

New Approved Plan Moves ITA-Lufthansa Partnership Forward

The Board of Directors of ITA Airways, Italy’s flag carrier and wholly owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), approved the business plan shared with the Lufthansa Group. Lufthansa Group is set to acquire a minority stake in ITA Airways.

Icelandair to Introduce A321XLR and A321LR Into Fleet

Icelandair confirmed that Airbus A321XLR and A321LRs will replace its fleet of Boeing 757 aircraft and that the airline will begin to operate a mix of Boeing and Airbus planes from 2025.

Delta Returns to London Gatwick

Delta became one of the many carriers that started or resumed service to London Gatwick Airport this year as more legacy carriers seek to boost capacity to London without having to contest for Heathrow slots or pay hefty fees.


COMAC’s C919 at the tarmac when passengers are boarding (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Lei Yan)

COMAC C919 Begins Commercial Service on China Eastern

The Chinese jet set to compete with Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies took to the sky with revenue passengers onboard for the first time from Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport to Beijing’s Capital International Airport. The China Eastern flight MU9191 took off at 10:32 a.m. local time from Shanghai.

Qantas Retires Its First 717

Qantas said ‘Blue Mountains’ is the third 717 to retire and the fleet of QantasLink’s 20 Boeing 717s will be gradually replaced by 29 Airbus A220 aircraft as part of the Project Winton fleet renewal program revealed in 2022. A320s and A220s are expected to become the backbone of its domestic fleet for the next twenty years.

Emirates Group Reports Most Profitable Year Ever

Emirates Group posted a record profit of AED 10.9 billion ($3.0 billion) in 2022-23, compared to the previous year’s loss of AED 3.8 billion ($1.0 billion).


The Dreamliner’s tail tapers to a lighter shade of purple.
(Photo: Riyadh Air)

El AL Announces Partnership with Delta and Code Share with ANA

The partnership between the EL AL and Delta will allow passengers to check in, check bags, and get their boarding passes for their entire journey on the two carriers. EL AL also announced a code-share agreement with All Nippon Airlines.

Paris Air Show: African Airlines

The Paris Air Show 2023 kicked off with exciting developments from African airlines. Air Mauritius announced the purchase of three additional Airbus A350-900 aircraft, bolstering its long-haul fleet for expanded operations in Europe and South Asia. Meanwhile, TAAG Angola Airlines entered into a lease agreement with Aviation Capital Group for four Airbus A220-300 aircraft, a significant step in the airline’s fleet modernization plan.

WestJet Shutting Down Sunwing Airlines

The announcement comes approximately one week after it was revealed that WestJet would be shuttering its ultra-low-cost subsidiary Swoop and less than two months after WestJet completed its acquisition of Sunwing Airlines and Sunwing Vacations.

Riyadh Air Unveils First Livery 

Saudi Arabia’s new Riyadh Air has unveiled its first livery. The first of two expected designs, the airline called it a “perfect blend of cutting-edge technology and timeless elegance.” Riyadh Air painted the scheme on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, of which it has ordered up to 72.


A JetBlue Airways Airbus A220 prepares for landing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
(Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Northeast Alliance Comes to an End

A judge ruled that a partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue called the Northeast Alliance was anticompetitive. In order to pursue its merger deal with Spirit Airlines, JetBlue decided not to appeal the decision, thus marking the end of the years-long partnership.

Northern Pacific Airways Operates its First Flight

The highly-anticipated airline, now known as New Pacific Airways, took off for the first time from Ontario, Calif. to Las Vegas. AirlineGeeks was onboard the first flight to mark the momentous occasion.

Historic Pilot Contracts Reached

Just after a string of network issues, United Airlines’ management finally reached an agreement with its pilots union on a new contract. The terms were so good that American Airlines pilots rejected their own tentative agreement, forcing American to propose a new contract that matched United’s.


A GlobalX Airlines Airbus A321-200. Red Way Airlines flights were operated by GlobalX. (Photo: GlobalX Airlines)

Air India Announces Rebranding Plan

Air India announced its plans to rebrand under new ownership. The move brings a new logo; a new livery for the airline, which was recently unveiled on the carrier’s first Airbus A350 aircraft; and a modernized cabin.

FLYING Media Group Purchases AirlineGeeks.com

AirlineGeeks.com found itself under new ownership this summer. FLYING Media Group says the purchase serves to increase its coverage of commercial aviation. 

U.S. Aviation Takes Big Steps in Accessibility

Delta Air Lines announced a new prototype for an airplane seat that allows passengers to stay in their powered wheelchairs, and United Airlines will add braille to all of its aircraft. US Senators praised the announcements as critical for disabled travelers on American carriers.

Red Way Airlines Ceases Operations

Red Way Airlines, a new carrier based in Nebraska, was born and died within the span of just a few months. The carrier took the aviation industry by storm but ultimately could not garner the traffic it needed to stay afloat.


An Airbus A321 on approach to Las Vegas.
(Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

BermudAir Launches Operations

BermudAir started flying as an all-premium airline based in Bermuda. The carrier announced it would fly Embraer E190s in an all-business-class configuration to cater to premium travelers connecting to the United States. Three destinations were originally planned: Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and Westchester, New York.

JSX Leaves Large Airports

American-based premium carrier JSX announced plans to move from larger airports to smaller secondary airports in a number of markets. Most notably, they revealed plans to move from Miami to Opa-Locka Airport, from San Diego to Carlsbad, and from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Scottsdale.

Pratt and Whitney Announces Engine Defects

A problem was found by one of the engine manufacturers that supplies the Airbus A320neo family. Engine defects grounded planes around the world and even caused the demise of Indian low-cost carrier Go First.

Alaska Airlines Retires Final Airbus Aircraft

Alaska Airlines once again became “Proudly All-Boeing” after retiring the last Airbus A320 inherited from its Virgin America merger. The carrier has over 200 Boeing jets in its fleet and has more on order.

Air France-KLM Places Massive A350 Order

Airbus beat out Boeing for a sizable widebody order from the Air France-KLM group. The company ordered 50 Airbus A350 jets, making the group among the largest operators of the type in the world. The order moves the carriers one step closer to a major fleet renewal.


Ex-American CEO Launches New Charity

Former American Airlines CEO Doug Parker kicked off a busy October by announcing a plan to start a new charity to help underrepresented minorities launch careers in aviation. The charity, called “Breaking Down Barriers,” hopes its efforts will help ease the pilot shortage currently facing the US.. airline industry.

United Expands Order Book for Widebody Aircraft

United Airlines announced in October a plan to purchase 110 new jets, split between 60 Airbus A321neos and 50 Boeing 787s. It brings the carrier’s 787 order book to 250 on top of an order it already placed.

Joby Electric Taxi Starts Crewed Testing

Joby Aviation announced in October that it began testing its electric air taxis with pilots onboard, a significant step towards FAA certification and entry into service. The tests come ahead of Joby’s first delivery to the United States Air Force, scheduled for early 2024.

FedEx Jet Experiences Runway Excursion

A Boeing 757 jet operating for FedEx ran off the side of the runway in Chattanooga, Tenn. during an emergency landing. The crew reported an issue just after departure and eventually requested to return to the airport; however, on approach, a gear unsafe light illuminated, and the pilots decided to try a second time, eventually performing a gear-up landing and skidding off the side of the runway. All three onboard survived.

El Al Maintains Network During Israel-Hamas War

Israeli flag carrier El Al made the intentional decision to keep flying into, out of, and through Israel after war broke out, even after other carriers suspended service. The airline aimed to help citizens get into Israel to reconnect with family or evacuate to safety elsewhere.

Delta Becomes First US Airline to Plan Tulum Service

As the new international airport in Tulum, Mexico neared opening, carriers began announcing flights to the airport. Delta Air Lines was the first US carrier to announce plans to the city, with seasonal services starting in March. American Airlines and United Airlines followed suit, as did JetBlue and Air Canada.

United Airlines’ First A321neo Flies to the United States

The first Airbus A321neo bound for United Airlines arrived stateside to complete proving flights. The aircraft is first of the airline’s order for nearly 100 of the type and will help to both expand operations and replace other aging A320 family planes in United’s fleet.

Long Time Qatar Airways CEO Resigns

Akbar Al Baker, who lead Qatar Airways for nearly 30 years, announced he was stepping down from his leadership role with the company. He was among the longest-serving airline CEOs in the world and is credited with growing Qatar’s prominence around the world.

Alaska Airlines Pilot Nearly Disables Aircraft Mid Flight

An Alaska Airlines pilot jumpseating on a Horizon Air Embraer E175 attempted to disable both plane’s engines midflight using the fire suppression system. The flight’s crew managed to subdue him, and he was subsequently charged with attempted murder, reckless endangerment, endangering an aircraft, and interfering with a flight crew; the attempted murder charges have since been dropped.


The sun rises on a busy morning at the Barbara Jordan terminal at Austin-Bergstrom. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

JetBlue Faces Headwinds in Amsterdam

For a moment, it seemed that JetBlue’s services to Amsterdam would be short-lived when the government of the Netherlands announced plans to bar the carrier, along with others, from Schipol Airlines for environmental concerns. The decision was reversed after the US government announced plans to restrict KLM’s slots at the busiest American airports.

American Airlines Slashes Austin, TX Schedule

Once the largest airline in Austin, American Airlines has announced plans to reduce its network out of the Texan airport. Demand in Austin has skyrocketed (pun intended) in recent years, and the number of incidents at the airport has equally increased. Now, American says that its expansion was too aggressive, so it will limit its flights at the airport.

FedEx Announces Flow to Regional Airline

As the global economy recovers from the covid-19 pandemic, the reduced demand for cargo means that courier companies like FedEx do not need as many pilots as they once did. FedEx has established a flow with American Airlines that allows FedEx pilots a guaranteed job after spending time at wholly-owned regional carrier PSA Airlines. This will both bring FedEx’s workforce down to a more reasonable level while also easing American’s shortage of crewmembers.

Dreamliner Lands in Antarctica for First Time Ever

Norse Atlantic Airways became the first operator to fly a Boeing 787 Dreamliner to the continent of Antarctica. The aircraft was on a charter flight for the Norwegian Polar Institute and stopped in Africa before continuing on to the South Pole.

Boeing Scores Big Deals at Dubai Airshow

After Airbus earned big widebody deals earlier in the year, Boeing leaped ahead during the Dubai Airshow with orders for its 787 Dreamliner and 777X fleets. Most notably, low-cost airline flyDubai ordered the Dreamliner, marking the first widebody aircraft that it will ever operate.

Boeing 737 MAX 10 Closer to Certification

The FAA granted Boeing a Type Inspection Authorization for its 737 MAX 10, allowing the manufacturer to begin flight testing the MAX 10. Boeing expects to deliver the first of the type in 2024, though some fear that entry into service could slip to 2025 if flight testing faces delays.

Transatlantic Flights Operate with Sustainable Aviation Fuels

Both Gulfstream and Virgin Atlantic operated aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean powered solely by Sustainable Aviation Fuels. Both heralded their operations as major steps forward in aviation sustainability.


An Alaska A330-200 in Seattle (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

Last CRJ-200 Operates Under Delta Brand

Delta Air Lines decided to slash all Bombardier CRJ-200s from its regional fleet in favor of jets that can handle two-class configurations. The final flight operated on an Essential Air Service route out of Salt Lake City and will replaced by larger Bombardier CRJ variants.

Alaska Airlines to Purchase Hawaiian Airlines

Soon after returning to an all-Boeing fleet, Alaska Airlines announced it would buy Hawaiian Airlines which is replacing its aging Boeing 717s with Airbus A321s. Alaska says it plans to keep the two brands separate to maintain brand loyalty with customers but that the airlines’ networks complement each other well. The deal will need to be approved by U.S. regulators.

Southwest Flight Attendants Undergo Contract Drama

Though the proposed contract between Southwest and its flight attendant union was soundly rejected, issues with the voting system soon arose. The union is thus preparing for a recount with new voting software to ensure an accurate representation of the opinions of their flight attendants.

Qantas Airways Receives First Airbus A220

Qantas Airways took delivery of its first Bombardier CSeries…or Airbus A220…earlier this month. The aircraft bears a special livery and will be operated under the Qantas Link brand. Qantas says the aircraft will usher in a new era of modernity and efficiency.

Southwest Pilots Reach Preliminary Agreement on New Contract

Southwest Airlines and its pilot union have been deadlocked on a new contract for years, and calls for improved benefits were heightened after 2022’s holiday meltdown. Now, the pilots finally have a new proposal. The preliminary agreement needs to be voted on by union leadership, at which time, if approved, it becomes a Tentative Agreement and is passed to the general union membership for voting. The entire process could take months to complete.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

  • Anthony Bang An

    Anthony is an airline enthusiast who also loves traveling. He grew up around the world from St. Louis to Singapore and now lives in Amsterdam. He loves long-haul flying and finds peace in the sound of engine cruising. Fresh out of high school, he aspires to be working in the aviation industry and share his passion for the sky. 

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