August 13, 2022

Passenger numbers set for recovery by 2024

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has shared an optimistic forecast for overall traveller numbers to reach 4.0 billion in 2024, exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The trajectory for the recovery in passenger numbers from COVID-19 was not changed by the Omicron variant,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “People want to travel. And when travel restrictions are lifted, they return to the skies. There is still a long way to go to reach a normal state of affairs, but the forecast for the evolution in passenger numbers gives good reason to be optimistic.”

The February update to the long-term forecast also claimed that in 2021, overall traveller numbers were 47% of 2019 levels. This is expected to improve to 83% in 2022, 94% in 2023, 103% in 2024 and 111% in 2025.

In 2021, international traveller numbers were 27% of 2019 levels. This is expected to improve to 69% in 2022, 82% in 2023, 92% in 2024 and 101% in 2025.

This is a slightly more optimistic near-term international recovery scenario compared to November 2021, based on the progressive relaxation or elimination of travel restrictions in many markets. This has seen improvements in the major North Atlantic and intra-European markets, strengthening the baseline for recovery. Asia-Pacific is expected to continue to lag the recovery with the region’s largest market, China, not showing any signs of relaxing its severe border measures in the near future.

Also in 2021, domestic traveller numbers were 61% of 2019 levels. This is expected to improve to 93% in 2022, 103% in 2023, 111% in 2024 and 118% in 2025.

“The biggest and most immediate drivers of passenger numbers are the restrictions that governments place on travel. Fortunately, more governments have understood that travel restrictions have little to no long-term impact on the spread of a virus. And the economic and social hardship caused for very limited benefit is simply no longer acceptable in a growing number of markets. As a result, the progressive removal of restrictions is giving a much-needed boost to the prospects for travel,” said Walsh.

IATA reiterates its call for:

  • The removal of all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine
  • Pre-departure antigen testing to enable quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers
  • Removing all travel bans, and
  • Accelerating the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travelers pose no greater risk for COVID-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

The forecast does not calculate the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. IATA states that in general, air transport is resilient against shocks and this conflict is unlikely to impact the long-term growth of air transport. It believes it is too early to estimate what the near-term consequences will be for aviation, but it is clear that there are downside risks, in particular in markets with exposure to the conflict.

Pre-COVID-19, Russia, was the 11th largest market for air transport services in terms of passenger numbers, including its large domestic market. Ukraine ranked 48. 

airlines.iata.org

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