IATA: 2021 Air Travel Outlook “Darker Than We Expected”
Mark Stachiew, Open Jaw
Photo by Tomas Williams via Unsplash
2020 was the worst year ever for air travel, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) fears 2021 might not be much better.
According to potential scenarios presented by IATA Wednesday, the global airline industry might only see traffic growth of around 13 per cent from 2020 levels this year amid the impact of new variants of COVID-19.
While the airline industry body has not formally revised its DEC forecast that traffic will reach 50 per cent of 2019 levels in 2021, it is increasingly concerned a scenario could play out where 12 percentage points are knocked off of that figure.
That would leave 2021 traffic at 38 per cent of 2019 levels – only a slight improvement from the 34 per cent achieved in 2020.
“The near-term outlook is very much darker than we had expected,” said IATA chief economist Brian Pearce, as reported in Flight Global.
IATA also announced full-year global passenger traffic results for 2020 showing that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) fell by 65.9% compared to the full year of 2019, by far the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history. Furthermore, forward bookings have been falling sharply since late December.
“Last year was a catastrophe. There is no other way to describe it. What recovery there was over the Northern hemisphere summer season stalled in autumn and the situation turned dramatically worse over the year-end holiday season, as more severe travel restrictions were imposed in the face of new outbreaks and new strains of COVID-19.” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Mark Stachiew Editor
Mark Stachiew is a Montreal-based travel journalist who's been exploring and writing about the world for more than 30 years. When he's not travelling somewhere or grappling with words on a page, he curates his own collection of travel gear.