International passenger traffic won’t reach 2019 levels until the second half of 2024 — almost one year later than domestic.
The forecast was made by Airports Council International, which added the industry is struggling to deal with “significant headwinds” such as labour shortages, inflation, and the risk of an economic downturn.
ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said, “Considering my recent trips and based on the latest data, there is no doubt that many travellers are eager to resume travelling — 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 towards the return to a 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.”
ACI’s latest quarterly assessment analysing the impact of COVID on airports has said global passenger traffic is expected to improve significantly in 2022, reaching 77 per cent of what it was in 2019. Traffic for 2022 is forecast to total 7.1 billion.
For the full year 2021, the pandemic removed 4.6 billion passengers compared to 2019, representing a loss of 50.3 per cent of global passenger traffic.
However, that compares to COVID reducing the number of passengers at the world’s airports by 10.2 billion during the first two years of the pandemic.
“Even with the current traffic trends, much uncertainty still surrounds the recovery of the aviation industry, especially in the medium to long term,” said the ACI.
“While many indicators are pointing towards the recovery, the industry is also facing some significant headwinds including geopolitical conflicts, higher inflation, the risk of economic downturn, supply chain disruptions, labour shortages, and potential new outbreaks.
“Despite the downside risks, the industry remains confident that the potential for a recovery to 2019 levels within two or three years is foreseeable.
“While some markets have experienced a robust recovery, on average and under the current projection, accounting for the slower than expected first quarter of 2022 due to the Omicron wave, global passenger traffic is expected to reach back to 2019 levels in late 2023 with the full-year recovery to 2019 levels in 2024.
“Global domestic passenger traffic is still expected to reach 2019 levels in late 2023 with full-year 2023 traffic at 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.”