Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Positive, Fast Impact on Global Air Travel Demand, As Controls Relax

Global passenger traffic is expected to reach back to 2019 levels in late 2023 with the full-year recovery to 2019 levels in 2024.
June 28, 2022
Airfare_Air Travel

The lifting of many health measures and the relaxation of most travel restrictions by countries around the world have had a positive and immediate impact on global air travel demand, Airports Council International (ACI) World has said.

In a report brought out on June 28, ACI World, while analysing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airports, said there had been an immediate effect on global air travel demand with the countries becoming more positive in their approach to handling the pandemic.

In its quarterly assessment, the organisation said that the recent momentum created by the lifting of many health measures and the relaxation of most travel restrictions in many European countries and in the Americas has renewed industry optimism.

It, however, said that there was an uneven recovery as major aviation markets in Asia-Pacific and the region were lagging behind their Western counterparts as they continue to be in part closed to international traffic.

There has been positive news on the air traffic recovery front as global passenger traffic is expected to improve significantly in 2022 reaching 77 percent of what it was in 2019, with traffic for 2022 forecast to total 7.1 billion.

For the full year 2021, the COVID-19 outbreak removed 4.6 billion passengers compared to 2019, representing a loss of 50.3 percent of global passenger traffic. Over the first two years of the pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak reduced the number of passengers at the world’s airports by 10.2 billion.

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said, “Considering my recent trips and based on the latest data, there is no doubt that many travellers are eager to resume travelling—and the early summer volumes are a testament to it.”

“With the combination of ‘vacation deprivation’ and an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by increased vaccination rates and safety measures, the relaxation of travel restrictions will help boost the propensity for air travel and fuel the industry’s recovery. With many countries taking steps towards the return to certain normality, lifting almost all the health measures and travel restrictions, we expect a jump in air travel demand in the second half of 2022,” said Oliveira.

Even with the current traffic trends, much uncertainty still surrounds the recovery of the aviation industry, especially in the medium to long term, the report said.

Risks that Remain

While many indicators are pointing towards the recovery, the industry is also facing some significant headwinds, including geopolitical conflicts, higher inflation, the risk of economic downturn, supply chain disruptions, labour shortages and potential new outbreaks. Despite the downside risks, the industry remains confident that the potential for recovery to 2019 levels within two or three years is foreseeable, ACI said.

While some markets have experienced a robust recovery, on average and under the current projection, accounting for the slower than expected first quarter of 2022 due to the Omicron wave, global passenger traffic is expected to reach back to 2019 levels in late 2023 with the full-year recovery to 2019 levels in 2024.

The overall recovery will mainly be driven by the recovery of domestic passenger traffic, but will be hampered by the recovery stagnation in Asia-Pacific and a slower recovery in global international travel (globally, domestic traffic accounted for 58 percent of total passenger traffic in 2019).

While global domestic passenger traffic is expected to reach 2019 levels in late 2023, global international passenger traffic will require almost one more year to recover and is forecast to reach 2019 levels only by the second half of 2024.

Girja Shankar Kaura

The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist, who has reported and written on a wide range of subjects in an extensive career.