On September 11, 2001 anyone associated with aviation knew that the industry would never be the same. What we did not know was how resilient the industry would be in the aftermath of the tragedy or the direction in which it would change.
A decade after the event, there can be no doubt about aviation’s resilience. By 2004 revenues and traffic surpassed 2000 levels. And by 2006 aviation had returned to profitability – albeit with a weak 1.1% margin. In the interim airlines dealt with SARS, additional terrorist attempts, wars, and rising oil prices.
It took three years to recover the $22 billion revenue drop (6%) between 2000 and 2001. When the global financial crisis struck in 2008, 2009 revenues fell by 14% ($82 billion) to $482 billion. This was largely recovered in the following year when industry revenues rose to $554 billion and airlines posted an $18 billion profit. Clearly the restructuring of the decade has left airlines leaner and more resilient in the face of crisis.
Over the decade, the dimensions of global aviation have also changed. IATA expects 2011 airline revenues of $598 billion -nearly twice the $307 billion of 2001. Airlines are also expected to carry 2.8 billion passengers and 48 million tonnes of cargo. That’s a billion more people flying and 16 million more tonnes of cargo than in 2001.
While it is difficult to isolate the impact of the events of 2001, we can say that they were a part of a chain of events that cost the industry three years of growth. The 2008 global financial crisis cost another two years of growth.