The year ahead looks more promising, although uncertainty remains massive.
IATA, the trade association for most airlines globally, expects airlines to return to profitability in 2023 after a loss in 2022, mainly due to the Covid-19 hangover , but also the rise in fuel prices.
And long-awaited new aircraft could also take flight, helping to usher in the next era of commercial aviation.
However, risks remain. Wars, global and regional recessions, resurgence of Covid, changing travel habits, climate crisis and many other factors are beyond aviation’s control.
Here’s what it all means for travelers in 2023.
Remap the sky
Virgin Atlantic is expected to join the SkyTeam alliance in 2023.
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images/FILE
Covid-19 has marked the last three years of all of our lives and will continue to do so – but, in most cases, that won’t include travel restrictions.
When Japan opened its doors to foreign travelers in the fall of 2022, it was the last major non-Chinese economy to do so.
Another big question is Russia. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian airlines were banned from the airspace of many countries, including the EU, US and Canada, and vice versa.
Outside of the conflict zone, this has had the greatest effect on flights between Europe and East Asia, which must either fly south of the conflict zone and over the Caucasus, or north over Alaska. As a result, many European and Asian airlines have reduced their services.
That means there are fewer flights between Europe and Asia, and a lot of European and Asian airlines with planes that they were planning to use on those routes, and they’re now looking to see where they could make them fly.
New routes between North America and Europe are already taking off, with the three major transatlantic joint-venture airline cartels – roughly matching the Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam alliances – being allowed to coordinate prices between their members – adding many new lines and strengthening existing services.
So if you see a new nonstop flight opening up, it might be worth jumping at the chance. If European airlines regain access to Russian airspace and demand to and from China returns, new nonstop routes could begin to require a stopover again.
Speaking of alliances, Virgin Atlantic is set to join co-owner Delta in the SkyTeam alliance in early 2023, while the long-running rumor that China Southern (some say the world’s largest airline) will join the Oneworld alliance seems to be gaining momentum recently. This will open up new connections for these airlines’ partners – and their passengers.
A new plane, but many new cabins
A new COMAC C919 being delivered to China Eastern Airlines.
STR/AFP via Getty Images
The COMAC C919, China’s first modern narrow-body airliner, is expected to enter passenger service as 2022 ends in 2023. The new aircraft, seen as a major challenge for Western manufacturers, will offer passengers in China a new option, even if it is not very different from the experience on a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320.
There are no other new planes on the horizon for 2023. Boeing’s much-delayed 777X stretched widebody isn’t expected to begin delivery until 2025 at the earliest, and that’s before flights trials were suspended in early December due to a problem with its General Electric. GE9X engines.
There will be more deliveries of the current generation of planes, including the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787, which means more newer planes to fly on, but also some older planes kept longer in the fleet .
The Airbus A321XLR aircraft is not expected to enter service until 2024.
Axel Heimken/AFP/Getty Images
On the Airbus side, the A321XLR extra-long-haul fuselage is expected to arrive with airlines in early 2024, although the good news for Airbus is that the US Federal Aviation Administration on December 8 approved the design of its additional fuel tank. .
This means that these new non-stop flights between smaller airports, including transatlantic routes, will be announced in 2023 – it’s worth keeping an eye out and booking quickly.
We might see new aircraft variants announced. Airbus has been making positive noises about the popular stretch of its small, narrow-body A220 jetliner, popular with passengers thanks to its wide seats, large bins and large windows.
As new planes arrive from the factory, they bring new cabins, like Airbus’ roomier Airspace cabin with its larger bins and streamlined aesthetics.
Airbus has designed its new cabin to provide more comfort to passengers.
“The growing number of aircraft equipped with Airspace cabins entering the market means that more and more passengers will benefit from comfort features as well as connectivity,” Airbus vice president of cabin marketing told CNN. Ingo Wuggetzer. “That’s essential for me in 2023 – it’s about bringing these innovations to a growing number of passengers around the world.”
Furthermore, he expects that “we will see a wave of digitalization in the day-to-day operations of airlines”. Digitization is good for passengers: a more connected airline offers more information and more self-service options, avoiding queues at the airport or long waits on the phone.
The Airbus A380 superjumbo will re-enter service for Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi in 2023.
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images
The huge (and wildly popular) Airbus A380 superjumbo is returning to service. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is the latest airline to bring back its A380s, which means wider seats in economy class on this big, quiet plane. This is great news for passengers.
Two variants of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, the shorter MAX 7 and the twin-stretch MAX 10, are currently in certification limbo with a looming year-end deadline.
To sum up a complicated situation, US regulators want Boeing to install additional safety systems. This will cost Boeing dearly, not least because it has contractually promised some airlines that it won’t need to do this to save them spending time and money training pilots on the differences. .
This is unlikely to have any short-term impact on passengers, but airlines’ longer-term plans to use these planes to replace old ones and to start new routes could be delayed.
Safety and durability
Coming Soon: No more picking up laptops or liquids.
John Moore/Getty Images
At the airport, 2023 will be the year some airports get rid of the “liquid ban”, where anything on the liquid-paste-cream-gel spectrum can only be transported in 3-pack containers. ounces or 100 milliliters in a small zip-lock plastic bag.
Travelers may have already experimented with early versions of scanners that let you leave your cash bag and electronics in your carry-on, but these are rolling out more widely. The UK is due to introduce them at all airports in 2023.
Also, keep an eye out for sustainability claims about flights as the climate crisis gains momentum.
One aspect of this is the growth of more sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) made from a variety of sources: waste oils, vegetable oils, algae, etc. Virgin Atlantic recently announced it was testing the first SAF-powered “net zero” carbon transatlantic flight in 2023, following similar plans by other airlines.
Another aspect is making cabin interiors, which are largely made up of metals, plastics and fabrics, more durable.
We spoke to cabin designer Martin Darbyshire of tangerine, the design agency responsible for many of the most innovative cabins of recent times, who points out that “as designers, we have a responsibility to eliminate complexity , weight and cost, and to provide longer life and more repairable and recyclable solutions for the airline interior industry.Our customers demand it and we owe it to society to make it happen. .”
Indeed, he says, it is “astonishing that it has taken this long to gain momentum. dominated”.
Top image: China’s new COMAC C919 airliner. Credit: CNS/AFP via Getty Images