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Uncertainty Still Looms Over Travel Rebound

An Azul ATR 72-600 takes-off from Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | João Machado)

It has now been over a year since the Coronavirus swept across the globe and began to change many aspects of the way we live, including largely pausing non-essential travel. Whilst a year ago it would have been hard to believe that passenger numbers would remain low for so long, today we have learned to get used to uncertainty and not being able to forecast how the industry will behave for the next six months.

While IATA and some other industry stakeholders continue to communicate that they believe passenger numbers will not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024; others believe it might be sooner. Delta, for example, has said that bookings increased by 40% in the last quarter of 2020 versus third quarter booking numbers.

Meanwhile, in India, domestic travel levels have been showing signs of recovery since the second half of 2020. Demand is expected to continue to rebound in 2021 and experience a year-to-year growth of 78% in domestic travel, according to Mint magazine. While analysts point that vaccination will be key for travel recovery, people in India are willing to fly domestically despite not being vaccinated, as stated in a FlightGlobal report. This is due to the fact that vaccinating a population as large as 1.4 billion people is challenging and will likely require some time.

Moving to The Americas, Brazil has seen a solid recovery in domestic air travel in the last two quarters of 2020. In December it carried 60% of the number of domestic passengers it did during same month in 2019, according to Brazil’s national civil aviation agency ANAC.

While new COVID-19 strains in the country are keeping the country locked out from international travel, airlines have maintained load factor levels throughout January. Brazilian carrier Azul, for example, had an average load factor of 80% across domestic flights in January. According to IATA estimations, Brazil’s domestic market would nearly recover by the end of the year. However as with pretty much everything else these days, the pace at which it recovers is unpredictable.

As new strains of the virus have caused countries to once again shut down borders, toughen up travel restrictions and add new social distance measures; it becomes clearer that international travel will only recover once countries begin vaccinating a larger mass of their population.

Health passports and proof of vaccination may be useful tools to kick back international travel. However, a lack of articulation between governments and industry stakeholders may push back many to fly abroad again, according to Airports Council International (ACI) as reported by CNN.

All we know is that it is likely most travelers will still vacation closer to home, at least for the next few months.

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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