Global airline passenger traffic won’t return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels until 2024, a year longer than previously thought, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced in a new forecast Tuesday.
Passenger traffic, which accounts for both the number of passengers and the distance they travel, was down over 86% in June, year-over-year. The total number of passengers boarding planes in 2020 is expected to drop 55% compared to last year, worse than the 46% decline the IATA expected in April.
The trade association cited “slow” virus control in developing countries and the United States, which together represent about 40% of the global air travel market, for the gloomy forecast. In a series of quarterly earnings releases last week, major U.S. airline executives pointed at a surge in U.S. COVID-19 cases for a new collapse in demand, USA Today reported.
Companies are also cutting their corporate travel budgets in favor of continuing virtual meetings. Consumer confidence in air travel hasn’t recovered either, as rising unemployment and health risks outweigh the desire to travel. The IATA said that last-minute travel restrictions, like Britain’s Saturday quarantine order for passengers coming from Spain, aren’t helping.
Demand for shorter flights is expected to recover faster than long hauls. Chinese carriers are leading a hesitant recovery in domestic passenger traffic, according to the IATA. At least eight Chinese airlines have kicked off cheap, all-you-can-fly campaigns and collaborations to revive travel in the country, AFP reported.
IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac denounced “confidence-destroying stop-start re-openings and demand-killing quarantine,” in a call for “targeted and predictable” approaches to travel during the pandemic.