Global passenger traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 highs until 2024, one year later than previously forecasted, according to an updated global passenger forecast released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday.
IATA said on Tuesday that slow COVID-19 containment in the U.S. and developing economies, reduced corporate travel, and weak consumer confidence will cause a drag on the airline industry’s recovery that will see the recovery not fully happen until a year later than the previous 2023 forecast.
IATA said that after a 55% fall in 2020 compared to 2019, “passenger numbers are expected to rise 62% in 2021 off the depressed 2020 base, but still will be down almost 30% compared to 2019.”
“A full recovery to 2019 levels is not expected until 2023, one year later than previously forecast.”
Aside from the drop in consumer demand because of the slow COVID-19 containment, corporate travel budgets, because of the current economic environment and the proliferation of video conferencing as a substitute for in-person meetings, are expected to be “very constrained,” IATA said.
And both leisure and corporate travelers who do travel will look more toward short-haul travel in the current environment, IATA said, explaining that the recovery the industry has seen since the bottom in March has come almost exclusively in short-haul travel and international air travel generally accounts for close to two-thirds of air travel.
“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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“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.”
According to IATA, scientific advances in fighting COVID-19, including a successful vaccine being developed and mass produced, could allow for a faster recovery.
In the meantime, “IATA also sees potential for accurate, fast, scalable, and affordable testing measures and comprehensive contact tracing to play a role in managing the risk of virus spread while re-connecting economies and re-starting travel and tourism.”
“We need to learn to manage the risks of living with COVID-19 with targeted and predictable measures that will safely re-build traveler confidence and shattered economics,” Juniac added.