With increased economic and geopolitical volatility, it is more important than ever that travel managers are equipped with rich insights to support their planning. Which is where the 2020 Air Monitor comes into play, developed by our Global Business Consulting team of aviation experts. While we encourage you to download the full paper, highlights from the report are below.

Airline performance

Overall, growth in global demand for travel slowed in 2019 and is likely to continue to do so in 2020. Rising costs for oil, labor and infrastructure will continue to squeeze margins, compelling airlines to recoup costs via higher fares and/or a push for increased ancillaries. However, fierce competition is restricting their ability to raise fares. And while economy base fares have been largely flat in 2019, premium fare yields have been on the rise since 2017 on stronger business demand. This has been particularly true on long-haul and transatlantic flights.

Low-cost, long-haul

In last year’s Air Monitor, long-haul low-cost carriers (LCCs) looked poised to have a significant impact on travel. However, except for those providing inter-regional services in Asia, long-haul LCCs found 2019 challenging – 2020 could be even more so.

Fare segmentation

Fare segmentation, or unbundling, continues to grow and evolve as a way for carriers to simultaneously meet different needs and budgets. With basic economy fares generally priced close to where the original main cabin fares used to be, this has essentially become a way to bump more passengers up to a higher fare. Fare segmentation is not limited to economy fares: some airlines are offering unbundled business class fares, which could open new opportunities in negotiations with carriers.

Airline retailing

Changing airline retailing strategies are presenting challenges for travel managers, as some airlines have chosen to remove fares from the global distribution systems (GDSs), and/or add distribution surcharges to tickets. American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is at the forefront of working with the GDSs to make NDC-enabled content available to business travel buyers, providing aggregated, transparent content, simplicity for users, cost efficiency, and servicing abilities – all of which help deliver value.

Aircraft issues

The grounding of the 737 MAX in March 2019 has had a significant impact on airlines, compelling many to cancel services or delay the retirement of older aircraft. In December 2019, Boeing suspended production of the aircraft, and a separate issue with the Boeing 737NG saw 737s being grounded in late 2019. This grounding will heap extra misery on carriers with large 737 fleets who are already struggling with the capacity impact from the 737 MAX grounding.


Concerns about air travel and climate change are coming to the fore, particularly in Europe as travelers focus on the environmental impact of air travel. Many of the world’s largest airlines have introduced carbon offset or biofuel surcharges.