The skies are clearing for global carriers which are now expected to post combined earnings of US$12.7 billion (S$16 billion) this year.
The latest estimate by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) is markedly higher than its March forecast of US$10.6 billion, and a December estimate of US$8.4 billion before that.
Still, profit margins remain thin, said Iata director-general and chief executive Tony Tyler.
"This is a very tough business. The day-to-day challenges of keeping revenues ahead of costs remain monumental."
Many airlines are struggling, he said. "On average, airlines will earn about US$4 for every passenger carried - less than the cost of a sandwich in most places."
Mr Tyler was speaking at Iata's 69th Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit, which opened in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday.
The three-day gathering brings together 700 aviation leaders including Singapore Airlines chief Goh Choon Phong and Mr Tim Clark, president of Emirates.
While profitability is thin, there has been a "solid performance improvement story" over the last seven to eight years, Mr Tyler said. Airlines have done well with more efficient use of assets, such as aircraft.