Air Travel’s 2021 Rebound Threatened by Virus Flares, IATA Says

(Bloomberg) — Forecasts for a significant recovery in air travel this year could be wide of the mark as new coronavirus strains extend travel restrictions, according to the airline industry’s trade body.



a room that has a sign on the side of a building: A passenger wheels a suitcase through a deserted arrivals hall at Madrid Barajas airport, in Madrid.


© Bloomberg
A passenger wheels a suitcase through a deserted arrivals hall at Madrid Barajas airport, in Madrid.

Passenger traffic may improve by only 13% compared with last year in a worst-case scenario, the International Air Transport Association said Wednesday. That compares with an official forecast of a 50% rebound issued in December.

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Tough curbs on cross-border trips in response to new Covid-19 flareups could stifle a recovery despite strong pent-up demand, IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce said in a media briefing. Herd immunity may be required before restrictions are eased, something that could be delayed by the identification of new viral strains.

“There’s a recovery, but it’s a much smaller recovery,” Pearce said. “What we’ve seen in recent weeks is governments taking a much, much tougher, more cautious approach.”

Passenger traffic fell by almost two thirds last year compared with 2019, IATA said. While the steepest drops came in April, the re-imposition of lockdowns meant the December figure was 70% lower, extending to 85% on international routes. Cargo demand fared much better, sliding only 11%.

Should the lower estimate for a 13% improvement come to pass, that would equate to 38% of the level seen before the pandemic, IATA said.

As a result, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said carriers may require as much as $80 billion more in government funding to survive the year.

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