The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a global trade group representing most of the world’s major airlines and cargo carriers, said earlier this week that it does not expect the air travel industry to recover from the hit dealt to it by the coronavirus pandemic before 2024.
That timeline, which defines “recovery” as a return to 2019 levels of traffic and revenue, is the most dire yet offered by the group, which had previously forecast a bounce back by 2023.
“Ahead of any vaccine, it really does depend on how well countries manage to control the virus,” IATA’s chief economist, Brian Pearce, said in a briefing on Tuesday. “That is clearly going to be an issue with the recovery. What we haven’t seen is the sort of progress that we need.”
The bulk of the problem is that the flying public has relatively little interest in flying. “While pent-up demand exists for VFR (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 said in a press release.
Moreover, corporate travel staying down as companies seek to cut costs and adjust to remote meetings will hamper a recovery, IATA said. Even as the economy picks back up, business travel may be slow to return.
“Corporate travel budgets are expected to be very constrained as companies continue to be under financial pressure even as the economy improves,” IATA said. The group said surveys indicate that the link between GDP growth and business travel has frayed, as videoconferencing makes in-person meetings less necessary.
IATA’s revised timeline represents the culmination of a new wave of pessimism from airlines about the travel recovery.
In the early months of the pandemic, most carriers suggested a two- to three-year