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After April’s Collapse, Global Air Travel Shows Signs of Recovery

IATA reports daily flights in May rose 30 percent off April lows, suggesting the bottom is in and connectivity is being re-established

June 2, 2020

The International Air Transport Association has announced that demand for air travel is beginning to recover, with daily flights posting a 30 percent gain between April 21 and May 27.

In a statement, the industry association cautioned that the rise comes off the historic lows in traffic recorded in April, when air travel tumbled 94.3 percent compared to April 2019, the result of COVID-19-related travel restrictions virtually shutting down domestic and international air travel.

“April was a disaster for aviation as air travel almost entirely stopped,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. “But April may also represent the nadir of the crisis. Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions. And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets such as China, Germany, and the US.”

The improvement in air travel data is not significant in the context of the global aviation industry. However according to IATA, it does suggest “the industry has seen the bottom of the crisis, provided there is no recurrence.” Perhaps as important, it’s the first signs of the industry re-establishing its global networks.  

“These are positive signs as we start to rebuild the industry from a stand-still. The initial green shoots will take time—possibly years—to mature,” de Juniac said. Part of the process, de Juniac said, will be the implementation of coordinated global efforts to achieve a balanced and effective restart and recovery.

De Juniac said the industry is looking forward to working with governments to rebuild aviation and regain the economic momentum air travel provides. “The world cannot afford to delay,” he added.