International Air Travel may take up to 2023 for full recovery: IATA

Air travel

Air travel may take up to 2023 to recover completely, according to a recent analysis shared by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Long-haul travel is likely to be the most significantly impacted, according to this report.

It has also been predicted that the recovery of the travel industry will be driven by domestic endeavours, with passenger numbers struggling to reach their normal state until at least 2023.

“Global GDP growth is expected to fall by around 5% this year, before rebounding and returning to its 2019 level in 2021,” the report explains. “To put this decline into context, it is around 4x larger than that of the global financial crisis, where world GDP fell by 1.3% in 2009.”

The expected plunge in the volume of air passengers (measured by Revenue Passenger Kilometres – RPKs) is quite severe, with a decline of roughly 50% this year.

An RPK is an airline industry measurement that determines the number of kilometres travelled by paying passengers.

“The recovery is such that a return to the level of 2019 does not occur until 2023, taking around two years longer than global GDP,” the report states.

Given the nature and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is probable that customers will take a longer time to feel comfortable travelling again.

With the lockdown in the second quarter of the fiscal year, IATA expects domestic and short-haul air travel markets to begin recovery over the course of Q3. However, long-haul markets will take more time to recover.

“Domestic RPKs are expected to decline by around 40% this year, while international RPKs are likely to decline by around 60%,” the report explains. “As a consequence, we expect the average trip length will decline sharply this year, by around 8.5%, before gradually recovering thereafter.”

Of course, some variables may change, and there is undoubtedly a level of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the anticipated recovery metrics and predictions in terms of economic activity and the volume of passengers utilizing air transport.

“The impacts of the crisis on long-haul travel will be much more severe and of a longer duration than what is expected in domestic markets.” .

~Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA, said in a press release

“This makes globally agreed and implemented biosecurity standards for the travel process all the more critical. We have a small window to avoid the consequences of uncoordinated unilateral measures that marked the post-9.11 period. We must act fast. In a recent survey conducted by IATA, according to the press release, 69% of travellers disclosed that they would not consider travelling if it meant that they would have to quarantine for 14-days once they arrived.

According to de Juniac, IATA proposes putting together temporary non-quarantine protocols until a vaccine is developed as well as “immunity passports” or “nearly instant” COVID-19 testing is available at scale.

IATA feels that a universal “risk-based layered approach” will be instrumental for the recovery and reopening of the air travel industry. Such measures would consist of restricting travel for those who present COVID-19-related symptoms by issuing temperature screenings and other procedures. It would also address the dangers surrounding asymptomatic travellers by having governments institute a “robust system of health declarations and vigorous contact tracing.”

The data predicts challenging times ahead for the travel industry with a multitude of factors at the industry as well as global governmental levels that will likely extend beyond this immediate crisis period.

“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”, de Juniac stated.

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