International air travel may not return to normal until 2023, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
The top industry body for air travel said that flights around the world are unlikely to be widespread for another three years.
Domestic travel, on the other hand, is expected to be up and running as usual again by the end of 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic across the world.
“COVID-19’s effects on air travel are certainly going to last a number of years with no quick rebound to 2019 level,” said IATA’s Chief Economist, Brian Pearce.
Under the IATAs baseline scenario, it expects travel to return to normal by 2023, but under its ‘setback scenario’ – if lockdown continues into the autumn or if there’s another wave of the virus – travel might not return to normal until 2024.
IATA forecast that revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs, which measure the volume of passengers carried by an airline) would drop to under 4 billion per year in 2020 from 8 billion per year in 2019 – having a significant impact on airlines.
Chief executive of IATA Alexendre De Juniac said only 50 per cent of air travel will return by the end of 2020.
“What we see is that things should come back to normal in 2023, which is later than our previous forecast. That shows the importance and the severity of this crisis on air transport,” he said.
He further reiterated that the impacts of the crisis on long-haul travel will be much more severe and of a longer duration than what is expected in domestic markets.
“Rebuilding passenger confidence will take longer,” he added. “And even then, individual and corporate travelers are likely to carefully manage travel spend and stay closer to home. This makes globally agreed and implemented biosecurity standards for the travel process all the more critical.”