( 2 Mar 2022, 11:27 +07)
IATA expects overall traveler numbers to reach
4 billion in 2024 (counting multi-sector connecting trips as one
passenger), exceeding pre-COVID19 levels (103% of the 2019
Expectations for the shape of the near-term
recovery have shifted slightly, reflecting the evolution of
government-imposed travel restrictions in some markets. The
overall picture presented in the latest update to IATA’s long-term
forecast, however, is unchanged from what was expected in
November, prior to the emergence of the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron variants.
trajectory for the recovery in passenger numbers from COVID19 was
not changed by the Omicron variant,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s
Director General. “People want to travel. And
when travel restrictions are lifted, they return to the skies.
There is still a long way to go to reach a normal state of
affairs, but the forecast for the evolution in passenger numbers
gives good reason to be optimistic.”
Nose of a Thai AirAsia X A330 with a sunbow in the sky. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com
The February update to the
long-term forecast includes the following highlights:
2021, overall traveler numbers were 47% of 2019 levels. This is
expected to improve to 83% in 2022, 94% in 2023, 103% in 2024 and
111% in 2025.
– In 2021, international traveler numbers were
27% of 2019 levels. This is expected to improve to 69% in 2022,
82% in 2023, 92% in 2024 and 101% in 2025.
a slightly more optimistic near-term international recovery
scenario compared to November 2021, based on the progressive
relaxation or elimination of travel restrictions in many markets.
This has seen improvements in the major North Atlantic and
intra-European markets, strengthening the baseline for recovery.
Asia-Pacific is expected to continue to lag the recovery with the
region’s largest market, China, not showing any signs of relaxing
its severe border measures in the near future.
domestic traveler numbers were 61% of 2019 levels. This is
expected to improve to 93% in 2022, 103% in 2023, 111% in 2024 and
118% in 2025.
The outlook for the evolution of
domestic traveler numbers is slightly more pessimistic than in
November. While the US and Russian domestic markets have
recovered, the same is not true for the other major domestic
markets of China, Canada, Japan and Australia.
“The biggest and most immediate drivers of passenger numbers are
the restrictions that governments place on travel. Fortunately,
more governments have understood that travel restrictions have
little to no long-term impact on the spread of a virus. And the
economic and social hardship caused for very limited benefit is
simply no longer acceptable in a growing number of markets. As a
result, the progressive removal of restrictions is giving a
much-needed boost to the prospects for travel,” said Walsh.
IATA has once again reiterated its call for:
– The removal of
all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those
fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine;
antigen testing to enable quarantine-free travel for
– Removing all travel bans; and
Accelerating the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that
travelers pose no greater risk for COVID19 spread than already
exists in the general population.
Not all markets or market sectors are recovering
at the same pace.
“In general, we are moving in
the right direction, but there are some concerns,” said Walsh. “Asia-Pacific is
the laggard of the recovery. While Australia and New Zealand have
announced measures to reconnect with the world, China is showing
no signs of relaxing its zero-COVID strategy. The resulting
localized lock-downs in its domestic market are depressing global
passenger numbers even as other major markets like the US are
largely back to normal.”
The slow removal of international travel restrictions, and the
likelihood of renewed domestic restrictions during COVID
outbreaks, mean that traffic to/from/within Asia Pacific is
expected to only
reach 68% of 2019 levels in 2022, the weakest outcome of the main
regions. 2019 levels should be recovered in 2025 (109%) due to a
slow recovery on international traffic in the region.
Europe: In the next few years, the intra-Europe market is
expected to benefit from passenger preferences for short-haul
travel as confidence rebuilds. This will be facilitated by
increasingly harmonized and restriction-free movement within the
EU. Total passenger numbers to/from/within Europe are expected to
reach 86% of 2019 values in 2022, before making a full recovery in
North America: After a resilient
2021, traffic to/from/within North America will continue to
perform strongly in 2022 as the US domestic market returns to
pre-crisis trends, and with ongoing improvements in international
travel. In 2022, passenger numbers will reach 94% of 2019 levels,
and full recovery is expected in 2023 (102%), ahead of other
Africa: Africa’s passenger traffic
prospects are somewhat weaker in the near-term, due to slow
progress in vaccinating the population, and the impact of the
crisis on developing economies. Passenger numbers to/from/within
Africa will recover more gradually than in other regions, reaching
76% of 2019 levels in 2022, surpassing pre-crisis levels only in
Middle East: With limited short-haul
markets, the Middle East focus on long-haul connectivity through
its hubs is expected to result in slower recovery. Passenger
numbers to/from/within the Middle East are expected to reach 81%
of 2019 levels in 2022, 98% in 2024 and 105% in 2025.
Latin America: Traffic to/from/within Latin America has been
relatively resilient during the pandemic and is forecast to see a
strong 2022, with limited travel restrictions and dynamic
passenger flows within the region and to/from North America. 2019
passenger numbers are forecast to be surpassed in 2023 for Central
America (102%), followed by South America in 2024 (103%) and the
Caribbean in 2025 (101%).
The forecast does not calculate the impact of the
Russia-Ukraine conflict. In general, air transport is resilient
against shocks and this conflict is unlikely to impact the
long-term growth of air transport. It is too early to estimate
what the near-term consequences will be for aviation, but it is clear that there are downside risks, in particular in markets with
exposure to the conflict.
Sensitivity factors will include
the geographic extent, severity, and time-period for sanctions
and/or airspace closures. These impacts would be felt most
severely in Russia, Ukraine and neighboring areas. Pre-COVID19,
Russia was the 11th largest market for air transport services in
terms of passenger numbers, including its large domestic market.
Ukraine ranked 48.
The impact on airline costs as
a result of fluctuations in energy prices or rerouting to avoid
Russian airspace could have broader implications. Consumer
confidence and economic activity are likely to be impacted even
outside of Eastern Europe.