Impact of COVID-19 on aviation industry will still be felt this year, says ACI World

To pave the way to a full recovery, the trade organisation has stated that a health data sharing framework must be implemented

An analysis published by Airports Council International (ACI) World reveals that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector will still be felt throughout 2021, despite displaying some positive signs of recovery.

ACI’s analysis – published today (March 25) in the ‘Advisory Bulletin: The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business and path to recovery’ – highlights that 4.7 billion fewer people are predicted to travel by the end of this year. This represents a decline of 47.5% of global air passenger traffic.

Gatwick Airport
Photo Gatwick Airport

As a result of the drop is numbers, revenue is expected to fall by approximately $94bn (£68.5bn) by the end of 2021.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World director, reiterates that “COVID-19 remains an existential crisis” despite the continuing efforts of the “biggest vaccination campaign in history”.

“We hope an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by vaccination and safety measures should result in the number of people traveling outside of their countries will start this spring and significantly increase by mid-year.

“Aviation recovery will not take-off, however, without a coordinated and globally-consistent approach to vaccination and testing, coupled with a safe and interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information.”

According to the council, regions across the world will all recover at different rates. Markets that incorporate significant domestic traffic are expected to make a full recovery in 2023 – back to pre-COVID levels. Comparatively, markets that rely on international traffic are unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 at the earliest.

A health data framework must be set up to facilitate safe border reopening in order to support recovery, ACI stressed. The council has issued its support for platforms that are able to store testing, vaccination and other health data whilst protecting the personal data of passengers.

A combination of disorganised travel restrictions within small domestic markets which effect the economic impact of the struggling industry suggest that Europe will remain the most affected region.

Both the Middle East and Europe are expected to experience declines of -58.9% and -58.1%, respectively. Asia-Pacific has been marked as the region that’s least affected, however it is still expected to experience a harsh decrease of 40.3% compared with the projected baseline.

In a bid to aid recovery, ACI recently published the second edition of its Aviation Operations during COVID-19 - Business Restart and Recovery which provides updated guidance for long-term recovery.