Global passenger traffic will surpass pre-COVID 19 levels in 2023 amid a rapidly growing vaccinated population and advancements in testing. Passenger numbers will recover to 52 per cent of pre-COVID levels this year and further grow to 88 per cent in 2022, according to the latest update from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination/testing certificates,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation’s long-term growth prospects are supported with an unwavering commitment to sustainability.
IATA said that 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.
“The economy is strong and can fuel growth in travel – february 2021 industrial production levels stood at 2 per cent above February 2019 levels,” said IATA. “Consumers have accumulated savings in the lockdowns, in some cases exceeding 10 per cent of GDP.”
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, said IATA.
By 2030, global passenger numbers are expected to have grown to 5.6 billion. That would be 7 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, giving average annual growth between 2019 and 2039 of 3.2 per cent. IATA’s pre-COVID-19 growth forecast for this period was 3.8 per cent.
The recovery in passenger numbers is slightly stronger than the recovery in demand measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), which is expected to grow by an annual average of 3 per cent between 2019 and 2039. This is owing to the expected strength of domestic markets like China with large passenger numbers and shorter distances.
Source: Civil Aviation Authority – Qatar