Air travel not expected to recover until 2024

Andrew Cummings
July 31, 2020

Global air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and it will take until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic levels, the trade association for the airline industry said today. "The recovery in short haul travel is still expected to happen faster than for long haul travel", the association says.

Passenger traffic is taking longer than expected to recover.

"Scientific advances in fighting COVID-19 including the development of a successful vaccine, could allow a faster recovery".

For 2020, global passenger numbers (enplanements) are expected to decline by 55 per cent compared to 2019, worsened from the April forecast of 46 per cent.

He also called for governments to implement measures to boost confidence in air travel including "accurate, fast, scalable and affordable" testing and contact tracing measures. It said the global passenger numbers in 2020 were expected to decline by 55 per cent compared to 2019. This was driven by rising demand in domestic markets, particularly China.

There was nearly no recovery in Europe and passenger numbers remain at all-time lows.

The more pessimistic recovery outlook is based on a number of recent trends.

The International Air Transport Association pushed back its prediction by one year due to the slow containment of the outbreak in the United States and in developing countries. The more pessimistic projection is based on the slow containment of the virus in the USA and developing economies, a reduction in corporate travel, and weakened consumer confidence.

"Their continued closure, particularly to global travel, is a significant drag on recovery", a release from the trade association stated.

The pandemic has resulted in a reduction in business travel as companies reduce their travel budgets in the weakened economy.

Sharp reduction in corporate travel, weak consumer confidence due to fear of catching COVID-19, and rising unemployment due to job cuts were some of the other factors responsible for slower recovery. "June 2020 passenger traffic foreshadowed the slower-than-expected recovery". The passenger loads for Asia Pacific were recorded at 63.8 per cent in June 2020 compared to 82.2 per cent in June 2019.

"Passenger traffic hit bottom in April, but the strength of the upturn has been very weak". "But we do not see for the moment the testing system ready to accommodate the constraints of air travel".

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's chief executive said "for airlines, this is bad news that points to the need for governments to continue with relief measures-financial and otherwise". Consumer confidence is depressed and not helped by the UK's weekend decision to impose a blanket quarantine on all travelers returning from Spain. The summer vacation season in Europe has seen more people move around and a rise in cases in Germany, which had earlier done better than many other countries in mitigating the outbreak.

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