The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Tourism Economics released a long-term view for post-Covid-19 passenger demand recovery, which demonstrates that people remain eager to travel in the short and long term.
To ensure that aviation can sustainably deliver its social and economic benefits as it meets this long-term demand, it is critical that governments step up their support for more efficient operations and foster an effective energy transition.
As per the forecast, global passenger numbers are expected to reach 52 percent of pre-Covid-19 levels (2019) in 2021. In 2022, global passenger numbers are expected to further recover, reaching 88 percent of pre-Covid-19 levels. Whereas in 2023, global passenger numbers are expected to surpass pre-Covid-19 levels (105 percent). By 2030, global passenger numbers are expected to have grown to 5.6 billion. That would be 7 percent below the pre-Covid-19 forecast and an estimated loss of two to three years of growth due to the pandemic.
Beyond 2030, air travel is expected to slow due to weaker demographics and a baseline assumption of limited market liberalization, giving average annual growth between 2019 and 2039 of 3.2 percent. IATA’s pre-covid-19 growth forecast for this period was 3.8 percent.
The recovery in passenger numbers is slightly stronger than that in demand measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), which is expected to grow by an annual average of three percent between 2019 and 2039. This is owing to the expected strength of domestic markets like China with large passenger numbers and shorter distances.
“I am always optimistic about aviation. We are in the deepest and gravest crisis in our history. But the rapidly growing vaccinated population and advancements in testing will return the freedom to fly in the months ahead. And when that happens, people are going to want to travel. The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination/testing certificates. At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation’s long-term growth prospects are supported with an unwavering commitment to sustainability. Both challenges require governments and industry to work in partnership. Aviation is ready. But I don’t see governments moving fast enough,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general.
The impact of the Covid-19 crisis will be felt for years to come, but all indications show that people have retained their need and desire to travel. Any possibility for borders to reopen is met with an instant surge in bookings. Vaccination rates in developed countries, with the notable exception of Japan, should exceed 50 percent of the population by the third quarter of 2021.