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Global air traffic won’t return to pre-crisis level before 2024: IATA

Global air traffic will not return to levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic until at least 2024, the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday.

Uncertainty about the timing of border reopenings is the main factor, IATA’s chief economist, Brian Pearce, told a news conference.

“We now are expecting 2019 levels not to be reached until 2024, which is a year later that what we had previously expected,” he said.

The outlook depends on how countries manage “to control the virus,” he said, and many nations are either struggling to manage the outbreak or experiencing new ones.

“There is little sign of virus containment in many important emerging economies, which in combination with the US, represent around 40% of global air travel markets,” an IATA press release reads.

New British restrictions on travel with Spain have also “created a lot of uncertainty,” Pearce said.

“What we haven’t seen is a wide spread of reopening, particularly for long haul, particularly for inter-Atlantic travel,” he said.

Any recovery in the second half of the year would be “slower than we hoped” after a weaker-than-forecast rebound in May and June.

Because of rising COVID numbers in some countries, the reopening of international borders would take longer than previously forecast, he said.

“While pent-up demand exists for visiting friends and relatives and leisure travel, consumer confidence is weak in the face of concerns over job security and rising unemployment, as well as risks of catching COVID-19,” IATA says.

For 2020 as a whole, IATA now expects a 63-percent drop in air traffic, worse than its previous forecast of 55 percent, Pearce said.

IATA, which groups 290 airlines, projects their income to be amputated by half this year compared to 2019.

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