IATA Expects Airline Passenger Numbers to Exceed Pre-COVID-19 Levels in 2023

IATA has forecast global air traffic will recover close to its former level by 2023 and resume long-term rates of growth from 2025. However, IATA chief economist Brian Pearce estimates the COVID-19 pandemic will have cost the industry two years’ growth in air travel. Pearce reported: “We’re 16 months from the point where we started to see the impact of Covid-19 and at the end of the first quarter air traffic was only one third of the 2019 level.” Pearce argued: “This year will be disappointing. We’ve revised down our forecast and now expect traffic this year to be just 52% of the 2019 level, and to reach 88% of 2019’s level in 2022.” But he forecast “a strong rebound when travel barriers are removed”, noting a surge in UK bookings to Portugal in the past two weeks.

He noted that despite the UK’s small number of “green list” countries for travel, there are large impacts for tourism: “bookings to these countries have gone from 70% below pre-crisis levels to 20% above.” Pearce said: “Among airlines, the first to recover will be those with large domestic markets. Next will be airlines in Europe and the Middle East – they will take a year or so longer to recover.

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