S&P predicts passenger traffic is likely to stall this year

Travellers are again losing confidence in air travel despite the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine

Global ratings agency S&P has published a report which highlights concerns regarding the recovery of the aviation industry.

Due to the discovery of the new COVID-19 variants, more severe lockdown restrictions have been put in place, diminishing consumer confidence. This also means that S&P’s previous summer prediction for the recovery of air traffic is in jeopardy.

Distribution of the vaccine is still seen as an important step toward recovery and the ratings firm believes around 70% of the adult population within the EU could be vaccinated by July of this year.

Heathrow Airport
Photo London Heathrow Airport 

The current prediction for air passenger traffic recovery for this year sits between 30% and 50% of levels seen in 2019 – still underperforming much like last year’s figures.

The S&P still speculate that by 2022, European and global traffic will recover to only 70% to 80% of 2019 levels.

Air passenger confidence in the region has again decreased, which further inhibits the rebound of traffic and means that recovery is more likely after the summer season. This will create further debt for airports and airlines and may cause some downgrades.

Although the UK and Europe are looking at vaccinating over two thirds of the population by July, holiday and travel bookings will still suffer as they are usually made in the first half of the year. This could mean that a significant recovery may only be seen in the fourth quarter.

When restrictions for travel are lifted, it has been speculated that low-cost airlines and leisure carriers will be the first to recover. Primary airport hubs will have a slower rate of recovery as they rely more on long-haul flights and business travel.

Air traffic is still estimated to return to pre-pandemic figures in 2024.