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IATA Expects Passenger Levels to Recover by 2024 at Latest

An Aeroflot and Lufthansa aircraft taxi at Munich International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts that the social and economic immobility caused by COVID-19, plunging passenger levels across the world, will take longer to recover than what was originally expected. During its weekly update meeting held today, IATA revealed that traffic will only recover to 2019 levels by 2023 at the earliest.

IATA chief economist Brian Pearce said: “We think that COVID’s effects on air travel are certainly going to last for a number of years, with no quick rebounds to 2019 levels unlike the current forecast for GDP.”

The recovery of air travel depends of course on a number of factors that conjugate together. On one hand, it’s the flattening of the contagion curve across the world, which would mostly guide measures for the lifting of travel restrictions between countries. On the other is the scenario in which lockdowns are extended towards the third quarter of the year as countries begin to see waves of reinfection after lifting lockdown restrictions. In this case, IATA expects 2019 demand levels not to ramp up until 2024.

Then, of course, there is the recovery of consumer confidence in travel, which might again be effected by some countries’ proposed quarantine measures for international visitors. In this way, IATA revealed that based on a survey conducted on 11 markets, almost 70% of respondents said that they would not travel under conditions where quarantine measures are in place for international travelers.

In this sense, IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac remarked: “Major stimulus from governments combined with liquidity injections by central banks will boost the economic recovery once the pandemic is under control But rebuilding passenger confidence will take longer. And even then, individual and corporate travelers are likely to carefully manage travel spend and stay closer to home.”

However, not all hope is to be lost as domestic markets are expected to be reopened before the end of the year. In the U.S., United Airlines has recently introduced “touchless” check-in kiosks to avoid passengers from touching surfaces and will inform passengers whether their flight is more than 70% full in case they don’t wish to travel on a crowded flight, offering passengers the option to rebook on an alternative flight or receive refund credits instead.

On the other hand, across the pond, Air France announced that passengers with more than 38ºC (100ºF) fever will be denied boarding and will have to reschedule their flights to a later date. Also, it’s worth noting that to date many carriers across the globe have begun requiring passengers to wear face masks on board in addition to establishing social distance measures throughout the airport process.

At the same time, IATA has proposed to governments a series of measures that aim to encourage opening the world’s borders for travel, including temperature checks and contact tracing. Data, however, seems to indicate that many travelers will not venture overseas until confidence can be fully reinstituted.

Jose Antonio Payet
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  • Jose Antonio Payet

    As a geography nerd, Jose has always been fascinated by the complexities of the airline industry and its ability to bring the world closer together. Born and raised in Peru, now studying in the UK. he has travelled around America, Europe and South East Asia. His favorite aircraft is the Boeing 767-300, which he has flown many times during his childhood; although now the A350 is slowly growing up on him.

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