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Global Airline Traffic Won’t Return to Pre-COVID-Levels Before 2024

IATA pushes out its projections another year based on inadequate containment efforts and weak consumer confidence

July 29, 2020

The International Air Transport Association has released an update to their global passenger forecast which pushes recovery out a year further than originally thought. IATA now says that global passenger traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024.

The association says that short haul travel will recover faster than long haul travel but it, too, will be pushed a year out, from 2022 to 2023.

The report also says that global passenger numbers in 2020 will have declined 55 percent compared to numbers in 2019.

The extended time frame of the projected recovery, says IATA, is due to slow containment of COVID-19 in the US and in emerging economies; reduced corporate travel due to video conferencing and weak passenger confidence in flying during the pandemic.

IATA’s June survey showed that 55 percent of potential passengers surveyed said they would not travel in 2020.

In a briefing on the report, Brian Pearce, IATA’s chief economist, said the good news was that “we saw a further rise in air travel globally in June, the second consecutive month from the April low point.” Pearce added that “the rise was barely visible. It was disappointingly and unexpectedly weak.”

In a statement, IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac said: “Passenger traffic hit bottom in April, but the strength of the upturn has been very weak. What improvement we have seen has been domestic flying. International markets remain largely closed. Consumer confidence is depressed and not helped by the UK’s weekend decision to impose a blanket quarantine on all travelers returning from Spain. And in many parts of the world infections are still rising. All of this points to a longer recovery period and more pain for the industry and the global economy.”

The director general said that quarantine requirements and restrictions on international arrivals around the world had the “same effect as outright lockdown.”

In June, IATA advised travelers to wear masks on board and recommended airlines unblock restrictions on bookign middle seats to help the industry return to profitability, stating that risk of infection on board HEPA-filtered aircraft with crew and passengers wearing masks was “low.”