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Recap: The airline industry in 2023

Profile image of post author Paul Buliga
Paul Buliga · December 2023

Coming to the end of the year we thought it would be nice to recap the changes in the airline industry in 2023:

📈  What airlines did good business this year?
🛬 Airlines that unfortunately will never see the sky again.
🛫 Airlines that entered the airspace this year.
💰  The largest airlines in 2023 by revenue.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the airline industry, 2023 was a year of thrilling highs and unfortunate lows. Let's embark on a journey through the year, exploring the winners who soared to new altitudes, the fallen airlines who took their last flight, and the brave new players who took their maiden voyage into the diverse world of aviation.

The Unstoppable Rise of Ryanair

Ryanair, the unstoppable phoenix of the airline industry, soared to unprecedented heights in 2023. Its secret to success? A potent blend of remarkable efficiency, strategic expansions, and a relentless focus on customer service. With revenues surging to a staggering $11.701B, an impressive 48.05% increase year-over-year, Ryanair has shown the world how to turn ambition into reality.

Strategic investments in fuel-efficient planes were a masterstroke, slashing costs and boosting operational efficiency. The result? Record half-year profits of €2.18BN, a mind-boggling 59% increase compared to the same period in 2022. From expanding routes to investing in state-of-the-art technology and fleet, Ryanair's strategic maneuvers in 2023 have not only helped it navigate a challenging market but also set the stage for future growth.

While Ryanair was the star of the show, other airlines also put on a commendable performance. Delta Airlines, COPA Holdings, and American low cost carrier Allegiant Air all posted impressive YTD returns, demonstrating that with the right strategies, the sky is indeed the limit. Surprisingly, the list includes two low-cost carriers, proving that despite many failures, it's possible to make a low-cost carrier profitable.

The Final Flight: Airlines We Lost in 2023

However, not all airlines were able to keep their wings aloft in the turbulent skies of 2023. The year marked the end of the journey for a few airlines, including some familiar names.

UK's FlyBe, despite a resurrection attempt, ultimately succumbed to the harsh realities of the market. Moldova’s national carrier, Air Moldova, suspended operations, leaving its future hanging in the balance. Meanwhile, India’s GoFirst grounded its fleet and filed for bankruptcy, casting a shadow over its once-promising future.

Several other airlines, including Hi Air, Aermar, Viva Colombia, Viva Air Panama, Ultra Air, Airwing, Flyr, JC International Airlines, Fly Gangwon, among others, also ceased operations, leaving a void in the industry.

The Brave New Entrants: New Airlines of 2023

Despite the challenges, the allure of the open skies enticed 19 new airlines to take flight in 2023. Among the most ambitious was Uzbekistan's Centrum Air, with grand plans to expand its fleet to 100 aircraft by 2026. Also Lufthansa Group has big plans with its newly launched City Airlines, but commencing flights from Munich airport in early 2024.

Other noteworthy launches included Mexicana 2.0, the reincarnation of the bankrupt airline, backed by the Mexican government, another Mexican regional carrier Aerus, Ghana Airlines and the highly ambitious Global Airlines, which aims to breathe new life into the Airbus A380 in 2024, starting with routes between London and New York.

Turkish Airlines also launched a low-cost carrier, Ajet, in 2023. However, this was more a rebranding of the previously regional-only AnadoluJet brand, which was established in 2008. This change was made because they started offering international flights in 2020, and Ajet is easier for an international audience to pronounce.

The Goliaths of The Sky: The Largest Airlines in 2023

As for the titans of the industry, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group, and United Airlines Holdings dominated the scene, with revenues in the multi-billion dollar range. Lufthansa Group, Air France-KLM Group, Southwest Airlines, International Airlines Group (IAG), Turkish Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Air Canada also made their presence felt, showcasing the immense market value of the airline industry.

As we wrap up our journey through the thrilling rollercoaster that was the airline industry in 2023, we look forward to the new vistas that 2024 will undoubtedly unveil.

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