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Airline insurance claims review 2023

Rising but still below long-term averages

By Philip Clayton and Scott Lyrick | January 19, 2024

Despite aviation activity returning to pre-pandemic levels, there were few major claims in 2023. However, minor claims continue to influence discussions.

It is probably stating the obvious, but one of the most important factors in setting the price of insurance is the number of claims that have been made against a policy in the previous year. This works in two ways.

On the one hand there are the claims that have been made directly against a specific policy. If an airline has been forced to make a claim, its insurance may cost more as insurers strive to ensure that their books are balanced over the medium to long-term.

On the other hand, airline operators may find that the cost of insurance rises because of claims elsewhere in the industry. This can be the result of incidents involving a specific type of aircraft or an increased perception of risk because of, for example, geopolitical considerations or the raised potential for extreme weather events at particular locations.

This short article will look back at the claims environment in 2023 and discuss how they could influence the price of insurance during 2024. Boiling it down to a simple sentence, there were relatively few claims over the last year. As ever though, summarizing something as complex as aviation claims in a simple sentence runs the risk of missing deeper trends across the sector, and the two significant incidents that have occurred in January 2024 could influence insurers’ thinking when it comes to aviation.

Claims in 2023

The political unrest in Sudan in April led to the destruction of a number of civilian aircraft[1], and while the ongoing crisis in Israel has not led to any major aviation claims at this point, both issues have put upward pressure on prices, particularly in the hull war sector of the airline insurance market.[2]

The spate of runway excursions that we noted last year continued during 2023. While none of the incidents translated into a major airline claim, the number of minor claims is likely to be a factor in discussions during 2024.

There were also several unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) claims during 2023. The value of these is unlikely to have an influence on the direction of aviation insurance markets, but it is interesting to note that their presence is being felt in the wider aviation insurance sector.

One of the interesting factors of UAV claims is that if there is a problem with a UAV while in transit, it may struggle to make it back to its base where repairs can be made, particularly if it is flying over the sea. As a result, technical or mechanical failures tend to cause a total loss of the vehicle and its payload, which is often valued separately or with separate deductibles.

Influences on 2024

While the number of claims was relatively low in 2023, and the various lockdowns of 2020-2022 massively reduced aviation claims in those years, there are a couple of longer-tail factors that will have an influence on the price of claims as 2024 commences.

Despite the suggestion that they may not be as significant as first feared, the claims resulting from the crisis between Russia and Ukraine are still very high on the agenda,[3] and they are likely to remain there until the issue of the re-registered aircraft is satisfactorily resolved.

This year has also already witnessed two incidents that will translate into hull claims, one for Japan Airlines[4] and the other for Alaska Airlines[5]. It should be noted though that the liabilities associated with the incidents have been relatively low and with preliminary investigations suggesting that emergency procedures performed as required, the pilots and crew on both airlines should be commended.

At first sight it might seem that the two claims could lead to a hardening of market conditions in the aviation insurance markets, but the influence may not be particularly dramatic. At this point, the Japan Airlines is a total hull loss, but liabilities were limited, while the Alaska Airlines hull could be repairable because the major parts of the hull (specifically the cockpit, wings, engines and tail) did not sustain notable damage. Repair may not be cheap however, depending on the extent of the work required.

That said, the delays and grounding of aircraft fleets that have followed the Alaska Airlines incident could have a notable influence on reinsurance renewals as we progress through 2024 and into 2025 and may encourage reinsurers to push to increase the retentions they impose on direct insurers. Original equipment manufacturers may also find themselves under pressure to accept reduced grounding limits.

With relatively few aviation insurance renewals during the first quarter of the year, the market will have ample time to process the severity of the claims.

The additional attritional influence

While major claims in 2023 were limited or historic, the recovery in personal and business air travel has had ramifications. Anecdotal observations from WTW aviation’s specialist claims team suggests that busier airports have led to more minor incidents such as landing tail strikes and ground handling issues. This has meant a rise in attritional claims over the course of 2023, particularly in comparison with the
COVID-19 disrupted years of 2020, 2021 and 2022.

It could be that these attritional claims have been influenced by the pandemic-driven loss of experienced team members over the last few years.[6] The industry is aware of its need to reskill and this was a major topic of discussions at the Airport Risk Community’s annual conference in November 2023 hosted by WTW in London. The event saw several airports, airlines, and other aviation related organisations discuss ways to attract future talent to the aviation industry, suggesting that there is a broad acknowledgement of the challenge.

Potential pressure on aerospace activities

In the shorter term, these minor incidents are having a knock-on impact, increasing pressure on slots with maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organisations as they strive to ensure that damaged aircraft are returned to service as quickly as possible. Repair and maintenance slots are currently thought to be in very short supply and even support equipment such as engine transport cradles are suggested to be difficult to source as they are in use on engines that are already off-wing and awaiting repair, maintenance or service.

This in turn creates pressure on the supply chain for replacement parts, with rising demand for spares pushing up prices and the struggle to source parts slowing down the repair process. This aspect is also complicated by the significant levels of economic inflation that was felt in several economies around the world in 2023.[7]

There is also said to have been an upturn on the costs of repairs in general terms. This is a continuing trend that reflects the rising supply chain and operational costs at MROs as well as new generation aircraft needing new repair technology for things like composite materials.

Market engagement remains key

Whether the perception of risk is higher as a result of an organisation’s specific claims or more general influences on the aviation risk environment, the best way for airlines to avoid rises in the cost of insurance is to engage with insurance partners.

This engagement can take several forms, but the overall advice is to be transparent where possible and explain the steps that are being taken to reduce risk. In a high-risk environment such as aviation, claims are inevitable, but explaining what has been learned from an incident gives insurers confidence that the same kind of incident is less likely to be repeated in the future. In some cases, there are even bursaries available from insurers to help airlines enhance their risk management strategies.

Despite the global pandemic and the increase in geopolitical tension over the last few years, the aviation industry continues to perform well from a claims perspective. Major claims in the sector tend to be low-frequency/high-value though, so while there is a lot to be satisfied with in 2023, as the start of 2024 has shown, there is never any room for complacency.


  1. Khartoum Kaputt: Aircraft Losses During The 2023 Sudan Crisis. Return to article
  2. Airline hull war moves up the priority list . Return to article
  3. Airline Insurance Market Renewal Outlook Q3 2023. Return to article
  4. Japan Airlines counts losses from wrecked Tokyo plane. Return to article
  5. What to Know About Boeing’s 737 Max 9 and the Alaska Airlines Grounding. Return to article
  6. What is 'The Great Resignation'? An expert explains. Return to article
  7. Global inflation tracker: see how your country compares on rising prices. Return to article

Head of Claim Advocacy, Aerospace

Director, Claims Management, Aerospace


Patrick Richardson
Managing Director
Global Aviation & Space

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