Prospect for aviation remains gloomy

Total passenger demand for air travel in January 2021 is down 72% compared with 2 years ago, January 2019. A comparison with 1 year ago, January 2020, would be distorted due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Domestic demand

Total domestic demand is down over 47% compared to January 2019 levels. International passenger demand in January 2021 is nearly 86% lower than in January 2019. This is a further drop compared with the more than 85% year-on-year decline recorded in December. Thus, 2021 is starting off worse than 2020 ended, says IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

Even as vaccination programs gather pace, new coronavirus variants are leading governments to increase travel restrictions. The uncertainty around how long these restrictions will last also has an impact on future travel. Forward bookings in February this year for the Northern Hemisphere summer travel season are 78% below levels in February 2019.

Huge losses

The aviation industry’s financial position remains difficult. The IATA was hoping the industry would turn cash positive in the 4th quarter of 2020. But now it expects to burn through $75-$95 billion in cash. It cannot be expected that the industry will be able to endure those losses without additional relief measures from governments.

“Increased testing capability and vaccine distribution are key for governments to restore travel,” says de Juniac. “It is critical that governments build and share their restarting plans along with the benchmarks that will guide them. This will enable the industry to be prepared to energize the recovery without any unnecessary delay.”

IATA Travel Pass

Global standards to securely record test and vaccination data in formats that will be internationally recognized are urgently needed. The IATA will soon launch the IATA Travel Pass to help travelers and governments manage digital health credentials. But governments must agree on the standards for the information they want for the full benefits of IATA Travel Pass to be realized.

Related: COVID-19 and borders

Tags: IATA, aviation losses, travel restrictions, vaccines

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