According to an ACI World report on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on airports, global passenger traffic is expected to improve significantly in 2022, reaching 77% of what it was in 2019, with traffic for 2022 forecast to total 7.1 billion.
The research suggests that the recovery will mainly be driven by domestic passenger traffic but will be hampered by the recovery stagnation in Asia-Pacific and a slower recovery in global international travel (globally, domestic traffic accounted for 58% of total passenger traffic in 2019). Global domestic passenger traffic is still expected to reach 2019 levels in late 2023 with full-year 2023 traffic on a par with 2019 levels. However, global international passenger traffic will require almost one more year to recover and is forecast to reach 2019 levels only by the second half of 2024.
According to the organization, industry optimism has been revived by the momentum created by the lifting of many health measures and the relaxation of most travel restrictions in many European countries and the Americas. However, this has also exposed the uneven recovery as major aviation markets in Asia-Pacific lag behind their Western counterparts as they continue to be in part closed to international traffic.
Even with the overall recovery of traffic, ACI World has asserted that much uncertainty still surrounds the recovery of the aviation industry, especially in the medium to long term. While many indicators point toward recovery, aviation also faces some significant headwinds including geopolitical conflicts, higher inflation, the risk of economic downturn, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and potential new outbreaks. Despite these risks, the industry reportedly remains confident that the potential for recovery to 2019 levels within two or three years is high.
For the full year 2021, the Covid-19 outbreak removed 4.6 billion passengers compared with 2019, representing a loss of 50.3% of global passenger traffic. Over the first two years of the pandemic, the Covid-19 outbreak reduced the number of passengers at the world’s airports by 10.2 billion.
Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general of ACI World, said, “Considering my recent trips and based on the latest data, there is no doubt that many travelers are eager to resume traveling – and the early summer volumes are a testament to it. With the combination of ‘vacation deprivation’ and an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by increased vaccination rates and safety measures, the relaxation of travel restrictions will help boost the propensity for air travel and fuel the industry’s recovery. With many countries taking steps toward the return to certain normality, lifting almost all the health measures and travel restrictions, we expect a jump in air travel demand in the second half of 2022.”
To find out more about the pent-up demand for air travel, read about SITA’s report here.