Air travel to be disrupted by ‘very frustrating’ supply chain issues, IATA’s Willie Walsh says

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Supply chain issues will impact air travel in 2023, IATA director general says.
Juliette Michel | Afp | Getty Images

Air travel will be affected by “very frustrating” supply chain issues this year, according to Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, as he discussed the challenges facing the aviation sector this year.

“[It’s] so frustrating, because it is going to have an impact in summer 2023. And we’re already seeing that,” Walsh told CNBC’s Dan Murphy.

Shortages will be particularly noticeable when it comes to engine parts, he added, which could then delay the delivery of new aircraft from manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus.

A shortage of planes has been a thorn in the side of U.S. airlines for months, with some now turning to bigger aircraft to accommodate more passengers as they try to balance strong travel demand with a lack of resources.

A scarcity of air traffic control staff is also likely to be a problem in 2023, Walsh said.

“The challenges we expect to see in the short term are outside of our control, and they principally relate to shortages, in resources in air traffic control,” Walsh said. “We’ve already seen restrictions on capacity in the United States [and] we’re seeing problems in Europe.”

A positive 2023

His comments come as airlines look set to return to profitability in 2023, having navigated a challenging post-pandemic period, with airports also scrambling to get back on their feet.

“Airlines and airports were criticized last year for not getting resources in place in time for the recovery,” Walsh told CNBC. “[But] I think the airlines have done their bit. Most airports I think are in good shape,” he added.

Walsh said he was “optimistic” for the industry as a whole, despite supply chain obstacles.

“Taking the overall picture into account … we can be positive about 2023 and beyond,” he said.

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