Global aviation has estimated that the sector will soon make a full recovery and return to pre-COVID-19 passenger traffic demand by 2023.
The projection was drawn from the current recovery trend in air travel, coupled with the progress made in sustainable measures on vaccination and testing to reduce travel restrictions across countries.
The forecast, recently released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Tourism Economics, showed that people remain eager to travel in the short and long-term.
To ensure that aviation can sustainably deliver its social and economic benefits as it meets this long-term demand, “it is critical that governments step up their support for more efficient operations and foster an effective energy transition.”
Already, Europe and more than 20 countries have wholly or partially lifted travel restrictions for vaccine passport holders ahead of the summer travels.
The prediction highlights that the 2021 global passenger numbers are expected to recover to 52 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels (2019). In 2022, global passenger numbers are expected to recover to 88 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels, and 105 per cent by 2023.
By 2030, global passenger numbers are expected to have grown to 5.6 billion. That would be seven per cent below the pre-COVID-19 forecast and an estimated loss of 2-3 years of growth due to COVID-19.
Beyond 2030, air travel is expected to slow due to weaker demographics and a baseline assumption of limited market liberalisation, given average yearly growth of 3.2 per cent between 2019 and 2039. IATA’s pre-COVID-19 growth forecast for this period was 3.8 per cent.
IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, said the sector remains very optimistic but needed governments’ support.
“We are in the deepest and gravest crisis in our history. But the rapidly growing vaccinated population and advancements in testing will return the freedom to fly in the months ahead. And when that happens, people are going to want to travel.
“The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination/testing certificates. At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation’s long-term growth prospects are supported with an unwavering commitment to sustainability. Both challenges require governments and industry to work in partnership. Aviation is ready. But I don’t see governments moving fast enough,” Walsh said.
Stakeholders reckoned that the damage of the COVID-19 crisis would be felt for years to come, but all indications are that people have retained their need and desire to travel.
Any possibility for borders to re-open is met with an instant surge in bookings. The most recent example is the 100-percentage point spike in bookings from the UK to Portugal when the UK’s “Green List” was announced in early May.
Vaccination rates in developed countries (with the notable exception of Japan) should exceed 50 per cent of the population by the third quarter of 2021.