World air travel not expected to recover from COVID-19 before 2024
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World air travel not expected to recover from COVID-19 before 2024

International Air Transport Association pushes back its prediction by one year due to slow containment of coronavirus outbreak in the US and developing countries

Passengers watch aircraft on the tarmac as they wait for their flight at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 28, 2020.  (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Passengers watch aircraft on the tarmac as they wait for their flight at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Global air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and will take until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic levels, the trade association for the airline industry said Tuesday.

The International Air Transport Association pushed back its prediction by one year due to the slow containment of the outbreak in the US and developing countries.

The industry is seeing a rebound from the depths of the shutdowns in April, but the bad news is that any increase “is barely visible,” IATA chief economist Brian Pearce said Tuesday during an online briefing for journalists.

Pearce said that air travel is not rebounding along with rising levels of business confidence in Europe, the US and China. Traffic was down 86.5% in June from the same month a year ago, compared with a drop of 94.1% in April, measured as revenue passenger kilometers, or the distance travelled by all revenue-generating passengers.

That improvement is “nowhere near the increase in business confidence,” Pearce said. China is bouncing back more than some other places, while an upturn in the US has been knocked back by the recent upsurge in COVID-19 cases in most states.

Pilgrims arrive at King Abdulaziz Airport for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 25, 2020. (Saudi Ministry of Media via AP)

Besides renewed outbreaks, travel is also being held back by weak consumer confidence and constrained travel budgets at companies that are struggling.

Despite parking many of their planes, airlines are struggling to fill seats with enough people to make money. Planes were only 62.9% full on domestic flights around the world, well below levels at which airlines make money, and an abysmal 38.9% for international travel.

The US is seeing more coronavirus cases after some states moved to lift restrictions on public life and business. The summer vacation season in Europe has seen more people move around and a rise in cases in Germany, which had earlier done better than many other countries in mitigating the outbreak.

The head of the Robert Koch Institute there expressed concern over the rise in cases. Germany issued a travel warning for three regions in Spain and the UK has imposed a 14-day quarantine for travelers returning from Spain, a popular holiday destination.

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