No full aviation recovery until at least 2023, IATA predicts

The International Air Transport Association has released new analysis showing that the damage to air travel from Covid-19 extends into the medium-term, with long-haul and international travel being the most severely impacted.

Quarantine measures on arrival would further damage confidence in air travel.

A risk-based layered approach of globally harmonised biosecurity measures is critical for the restart, IATA said.

IATA laid out two possible scenarios for the restart.

Under the best-case process, domestic markets would begin to open moving into quarter three, with a much slower phased opening of international markets.

This would limit the air travel recovery, despite most forecasts pointing toward a strong economic rebound late this year and during 2021.

In 2021 IATA said it expected global passenger demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres) to be 24 per cent below 2019 levels and 32 per cent lower than the October 2019 Air Passenger forecast for 2021.

The body said it did not expect 2019 levels to be exceeded until 2023.

As international markets open and economies recover, there will be further growth in air travel from the 2020 low point.

But even by 2025 we would expect global revenue passenger kilometres to be ten per cent lower than the previous forecast.

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Under a pessimistic scenario, there would be a slower opening of economies and relaxation of travel restrictions, with lockdowns extending into quarter three, possibly due to a second wave of the virus.

This would further delay the recovery of air travel.

In this case, global revenue passenger kilometres in 2021 could be 34 per cent lower than 2019 levels and 41 per cent below the previous forecast for 2021.

“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 travellers are likely to carefully manage travel spend and stay closer to home,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general.

Quarantine Measures

IATA also strongly urged governments to find alternatives to maintaining or introducing arrival quarantine measures as part of post-pandemic travel restrictions.

A survey of recent air travellers showed that 86 per cent were somewhat or very concerned about being quarantined while traveling, while 69 per cent would not consider travelling if it involved a 14-day quarantine period.

“Even in the best of circumstances this crisis will cost many jobs and rob the economy of years of aviation-stimulated growth. 

“To protect aviation’s ability to be a catalyst for the economic recovery, we must not make that prognosis worse by making travel impracticable with quarantine measures.

“We need a solution for safe travel that addresses two challenges.

“It must give passengers confidence to travel safely and without undue hassle.

“And it must give governments confidence that they are protected from importing the virus.

“Our proposal is for a layering of temporary non-quarantine measures until we have a vaccine, immunity passports or nearly instant Covid-19 testing available at scale,” said de Juniac.

IATA’s proposal for a temporary risk-based layered approach to provide governments with the confidence to open their border without quarantining arrivals includes:

  • Preventing travel by those who are symptomatic with temperature screening and other measures.
  • Addressing the risks of asymptomatic travellers with governments managing a robust system of health declarations and vigorous contact tracing.
  • The mutual recognition of agreed measures is critical for the resumption of international travel. This is a key deliverable of the Covid-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

“CART has a very big job to do with little time to waste.

“It must find an agreement among states on the measures needed to control Covid-19 as aviation re-starts.

“And it must build confidence among governments that borders can be opened to travellers because a layered approach of measures has been properly implemented globally.

“IATA and the whole industry support this critical work,” concluded de Juniac.

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