The aviation industry is currently facing an uneven recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there has been a continued uptick overall in the second half of 2022, bringing the industry closer to full recovery. According to a recent study by the Airports Council International (ACI) World, the rebound is still expected for 2024.
The world is emerging from the worst health crisis in modern times, which has led to an unprecedented downfall in the aviation industry. Airlines and airports have been under financial pressure since 2020, and while there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, the sector is currently facing strong headwinds.
ACI, the association representing 1,950 airports in 185 countries, said the global economy faced a new set of challenges, including the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, bottlenecks in global supply chains, high inflation and rising fuel prices. Overall, some risks threaten to disrupt the pace of post-pandemic recovery.
Nonetheless, despite these strong headwinds, the industry continues to recover, ACI added. More countries have eased their travel restrictions, opening up their markets, including Japan in the Asia-Pacific region. “This, coupled with the propensity for air travel, will drive the industry’s recovery, which is expected to reach 2019 levels in 2024.”
The recovery of the aviation industry has been uneven. Photo: Getty Images.
The recovery so far
In 2021, there were approximately 4.6 billion travelers worldwide. This number represented a 52.9% loss of passengers from the baseline projection of 9.8 billion passengers that there would have been had COVID-19 not impacted the world.
In the first two quarters of 2022, global passenger volume was 1.3 billion and 1.7 billion, or 62.0% and 75.2% of 2019 levels. The recovery was mainly driven by the Sudden increase in air travel demand during summer 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere, following the easing of travel restrictions, which resulted in higher than expected demand.
Global passenger traffic this year is expected to be 6.8 billion, a loss of 33.1% compared to 2019 traffic.
Projection of global quarterly passenger losses due to the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: ACI.
The Latin America and Caribbean region had the strongest first half of 2022 among the regions. According to the ACI report, these geographies recorded declines of 23.7% and 14.9% for the first and second quarters of 2022. Countries such as Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico have fully rebounded from the COVID-19 crisis and are already exceeding their 2019 passenger levels.
The North American region marked the second strongest recovery in the world. However, it has slowed from the rapid recovery trend in 2021. Its traffic was down 27.1% and 17.3% for the first two quarters.
In contrast, the Asia-Pacific region saw the least improvement in the first half of this year. Countries like Japan only opened their borders recently. For example, Hong Kong has only just ended its controversial COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy for all arrivals.
Latin America and North America had the best recoveries in 2022. Photo: Getty Images.
Luis Felipe de Oliveira, global director of ACI, said the recent momentum created by the lifting of many health measures and the easing of most travel restrictions in Europe and the Americas had revived the optimism of the ‘industry. Nevertheless, there is still an uneven recovery – a gap exists between markets, particularly where strict travel restrictions remain and access to COVID-19 vaccines is limited.
ACI World expects global passenger traffic to reach 2019 levels by the end of 2023, with the full-year recovery expected to occur in 2024.
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