IATA says air traffic may not reach 2019 levels before 2023

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that it does not expect a return to 2019 levels of air traffic until 2023.

This forecast is based on IATA’s baseline scenario, which is contingent on domestic markets opening in the third quarter, with a much slower phased opening of international markets.

In this scenario, in 2021 it expects global passenger demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, RPKs) to be 24% below 2019 levels and 32% lower than IATA’s October 2019 Air Passenger forecast for 2021. It adds that even by 2025 it expects global RPKs to be 10% lower than the previous forecast.

In IATA’s pessimistic scenario, based on a slower opening of economies and relaxation of travel restrictions, with lockdowns extending into the third quarter, possibly due to a second wave of the virus, there would be a further delay in the recovery of air travel.

In this case, global RPKs in 2021 could be 34% lower than 2019 levels and 41% below IATA’s  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 travelers are likely to carefully manage travel spend and stay closer to home,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and ceo.

When the recovery begins, it is expected to be led by domestic travel.

IATA says it strongly urges governments to find alternatives to arrival quarantine measures as part of post-pandemic travel restrictions. IATA’s April survey of recent air travelers showed that 86% of travelers were somewhat or very concerned about being quarantined while traveling, and 69% of recent travelers would not consider traveling if it involved a 14-day quarantine period.