Airports Council International (ACI) World has published analysis revealing that despite some positive signs of recovery, the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on airport revenues will still be deeply felt in 2021.
The analysis – published March 25 in the Advisory Bulletin: The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business and path to recovery – shows that 4.7 billion fewer passengers are forecast to travel by year-end 2021 compared with the projected baseline, representing a 47.5% decline in global passenger traffic. This reduction in travelers is estimated to equate to a loss in revenue of more than US$94bn by the end of 2021, cutting expectations in half compared with the projected baseline.
As prospects for a recovery in 2021 begin to emerge, ACI World estimates that different regions will recover at different rates. At country level, markets where most of the traffic is domestic are expected to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2023; however, markets where most traffic is international are unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 or even 2025 in some cases.
ACI World says that an interoperable health data trust framework must be established to facilitate safe border reopening and cross-border travel and support this recovery. The organization is ‘supportive of any system that will allow testing and vaccination data to be shared consistently, effectively and in a way that protects the personal data of those that use it’.
“The world is embarking on the biggest vaccination campaign in history. We see positive indications in countries with high rates of vaccination, and ACI World has discerned an escalation of these encouraging signs and prospects for recovery, with a surge in travel in the second half of 2021 expected,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World director general.
“Despite this, Covid-19 remains an existential crisis for airports, airlines and their commercial partners, and we need support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can fuel the global economic recovery. We hope an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by vaccination and safety measures will mean the number of people traveling outside of their countries will start growing this spring and significantly increase by mid-year.
“Aviation recovery will not take off, however, without a coordinated and globally consistent approach to vaccination and testing, coupled with safe and interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information,” de Oliveira continued.
As a consequence of uncoordinated travel restrictions combined with small domestic markets, Europe is forecast to remain the most financially affected region in absolute terms, with an estimated revenue decrease of more than US$37.5bn for the full year 2021 compared with 2019. In relative terms, the Middle East and Europe are forecast to suffer the biggest hits, with decreases of -58.9% and -58.1% respectively. Asia-Pacific is the region likely to suffer the least impact, although it is still expected to experience a significant decrease of -40.3% against the projected baseline.
To support recovery, ACI World recently published the second edition of its Aviation Operations during COVID-19 – Business Restart and Recovery, which provides updated best practice examples and guidance for initial restart and longer-term recovery. This followed the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force’s release of its take-off guidance document and manual on cross-border testing and risk management, which provide updated policy recommendations to states.
“The priority for airports has always been to protect the health and welfare of travelers, staff and the public. ICAO’s role in providing globally consistent guidance will help to lay the foundation for the industry’s long-term and sustained recovery,” de Oliveira concluded.