The Aviation Industry Ten Years After 9/11

SPECIAL REPORT: The Aviation Industry Ten Years After 9/11


Thumbnail image for Man-at-airport-window-looking-at-plane-take-off-vacation-keyimage.jpg Based on a new report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the economic impact of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 on the aviation industry was very significant.

Airlines lost $13 billion in 2001 and a further $11.3 billion in 2002.The industry recorded its first post-September 11 annual profit in 2006 ($5 billion), and earned $14.7 billion in 2007. The following year rising oil prices and the global financial crisis plunged airlines back into the red with 2008-9 total losses of $25.9 billion.

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.

The legacy of 9.11 is felt most in airport security. Aviation is more secure today than in 2001. But this has come at a great price in terms of passenger convenience and industry costs.

As we move forward, there are five major lessons in security over the last decade:


A good place to start is by removing the hassle that comes between check-in and boarding at many airports. The building blocks to do a better job exist. The vision for IATA's Checkpoint of the Future is for passengers to be able to get from curb to gate in a seamless and convenient process. For this, we need a risk-based approach to security powered by the enormous amount of data that we can and do collect on travelers. Combined with this will be technology that will allow most passengers to simply stroll through a checkpoint that can detect metal and harmful substances without stopping, stripping or unpacking.

Parts of this vision could be realized with technology that exists today. Others are in development with a three to seven year horizon. The important thing is to keep focused on evolving the 40-year-old concept of today's airport checkpoint into one that is more convenient, more effective and that can handle the ever increasing volume of people who want and need to fly.

9/11 Impact on U.S. Aviation Industry


Global Economic Impact



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