The latest ICAO economic effect estimate of COVID-19 on civil aviation found that the number of passengers globally was 2.3 billion, or 49%, lower than pre-pandemic (2019) levels in 2021, rising from a 60% decline in 2020.
During the same period, global airline seat capacity increased by 20%, outpacing growth in passenger demand. The global passenger load factor in 2021 was 68%, down from 82% in 2019, while airlines worldwide lost $324 billion, up from $372 billion in 2020.
Continuing efforts by States to implement WHO and ICAO recommendations, including those issued by the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) and adopted in the Ministerial Declaration at ICAO’s High-level Conference on COVID-19, are assisting in the elimination of travel restrictions disproportionate to public health risks, and in lessening the pandemic’s impacts on global mobility, so that air travel, trade, and tourism can recover more quickly and bring prosperity back to the region.
A Year of Intermittent Remissions:
The rate of global air traffic recovery slowed in the first quarter of 2021 because of a substantial increase in COVID-19 infections at the time. The situation improved marginally in the second and third quarters, owing mostly to improving vaccination rates and a relaxation of travel restrictions in different regions of the world during the holiday travel season.
This growing tendency, however, abruptly came to a halt in the fourth quarter, with the development of the Omicron variant. The pandemic’s impact on domestic and foreign travel continues to be disproportionate, with the former recovering faster. Domestic passenger traffic has returned to 68 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but foreign travel is still at 28 percent.
Analysts are trying to predict how the aviation recovery will unfold during the rest of 2022, and they are confronted with both optimistic indicators and downside concerns.
In an optimistic scenario, passenger traffic is predicted to rebound to 86% of its 2019 levels by December 2022, with international traffic recovering at 73% and domestic traffic recovering at 95%.
More gloomy forecasts predict a 75% recovery, with 58% international and 86% local recovery. This expected ongoing fall in traffic might result in estimated reductions in gross airline passenger operating revenues of $186–$217 billion in 2022 compared to 2019.