The U.S. has some of the most profitable airlines in the world.
Credit: Greg Bajor/Getty Images

North American airlines are set for record profit in 2018, thanks in part to European growth.

Overall profits for global airlines are set to rise 11 percent to $38.4 billion in 2018, with $27.9 billion coming from North American and European airlines, according to new figures released by International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“These are good times for the global air transport industry. Safety performance is solid. We have a clear strategy that is delivering results on environmental performance. More people than ever are traveling,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

The results may come as a surprise to some passengers, as 2017 brought a wave of PR snafus to U.S. airlines, including a viral incident on a United Airlines flight in which a passenger was dragged through the aisle. Passengers have directly contributed to the growth in profit, as the average net profit per departing passenger is expected to rise to $8.90 (up from $8.45 in 2017).

Rising fuel prices have also hit U.S. airlines, but high demand and improving economies in Europe have helped trigger profit in airlines worldwide, an IATA economist told Reuters.

Global trade has also helped cargo operators, with an estimated 62.5 million tons of freight to be carried in 2018, constituting an increase of 4.5 percent from the 2017 forecast.

IATA's report was overwhelmingly positive, with only a few caveats. Fuel prices in particular were a concern, though the forecast predicts this pressure will ease slightly in 2018. De Juniac also cited potential government interference in aviation practices as a factor in the coming year.