Profit and loss of airlines worldwide 2010-2020

Although the global air travel industry is booming, Middle Eastern carriers are projected to have combined losses of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. At the other end of the spectrum, profits for North American carriers in this year were expected to reach 16.9 billion dollars.

Middle Eastern airlines

The Middle East has been increasing its importance in the global airline industry. Up until around 2016, the region was consistently the fastest growing and now accounts for around 10 percent of the global air traffic. The main reason for this is the effort put in by the region’s largest carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – to position their respective countries as central hubs for intercontinental travel.

Reasons for low profits

Analysts provide several reasons for the low profits of Middle Eastern airlines. One reason is a decline in demand relative to capacity. For example, Qatar Airways increased their available seat kilometers in 2018, while the number of passengers they carried declined. Regional geopolitical tensions is one reason often given for this decline, both through direct effects (such as the Qatar blockade which commenced in 2017) and the indirect effect of leading passengers to not want to travel through the region. Other analysts argue that the large Middle Eastern airlines are simply less concerned with profits than their western counterparts, as they are owned by oil-funded governments who are more focused on gaining market share than profitability. Regardless of reasons, airlines in the Middle East are significantly less profitable than the industry average.

Profit and loss of commercial airlines worldwide from 2010 to 2020, by region

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Release date

December 2019



Survey time period

2010 to 2019

Supplementary notes

*2019 figure is an estimate.
**2020 figure is a forecast.
Figures prior to 2014 taken from previous reports.

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