The air industry’s path to recovery will be ‘slow and uncertain’, say experts from Airports Council International (ACI), and without government support it could collapse. Olivia Palamountain reports

ACI World’s most recent Covid-19 impact analysis reveals that the global air industry experienced a reduction of more than six billion passengers by the end of 2020. This represents a decline of 64.2 per cent of global passenger traffic, with a reduction in revenue of US$111.8 billion.

Despite numbers affected negatively in the short term by the continuing effects of the pandemic, over the next five years, ACI’s World Airport Traffic Forecasts reveal that global passenger traffic worldwide is expected to grow at an annualised rate of 2.4 per cent.

However, recovery is likely to be uneven across the world. While markets with significant domestic traffic are not expected to recover to pre-Covid levels before 2023, markets with a significant share of international traffic will recover much more slowly.

ACI believes this slow recovery will only be possible if governments introduce a consistent approach to testing to promote travel, do away with restrictive quarantine measures, and employ a co-ordinated and risk-based approach to combining testing and vaccination going forward.

“The prospects for recovery in the aviation industry have taken a hit following the introduction of renewed travel restrictions and lockdowns in response to new variants of the Covid-19 virus emerging,” says ACI world director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“While ACI forecasts show there is a pathway for a long term recovery, this can only be possible if a solid foundation can be laid in the short term with government policy support and direct assistance.

“The rapid deployment of vaccines is welcomed but there will be a considerable period before they are widely available so, in the meantime, there must be a proportionate approach to vaccination before travel balanced with a risk-based approach to testing.

“A co-ordinated approach to testing and vaccination will ensure the health and safety of passengers, staff and the general public, promote travel, and allow us to do away with restrictive quarantine measures that are hampering the industry efforts to prepare for a sustained recovery.”

The World Airport Traffic Forecasts show Asia-Pacific and Latin America-Caribbean are predicted to experience the fastest growth, achieving five-year growth rates of 3.5 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively. Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America will see a more modest expansion, with growth ranging from 1.2 per cent to 1.9 per cent.

China is expected to become the largest passenger market in 2031, surpassing the US, and is projected to continue to dominate passenger rankings in 2040 with just over 3.6 billion passengers, an 18.3 per cent share of the global passenger traffic market.

The US and India follow, with 2.9 and 1.3 billion passengers, respectively. Together, the three countries will handle almost 40 per cent of global passenger traffic.

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