Total passenger numbers to and from Europe are expected to reach 86 percent of pre-Covid 2019 levels in 2022, before making a full recovery in 2024 to 105 percent of pre-pandemic levels, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week.
Overall, IATA expects traveler numbers to reach 4.0 billion in 2024, to 103 percent exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
Over the next few years, the intra-Europe market is set to benefit as travelers opt for short-haul trips thanks to growing confidence and as EU member states harmonize their rules and allow restriction-free movement within the EU.
IATA’s latest report has not taken the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict into account noting that “in general, air transport is resilient against shocks and this conflict is unlikely to impact the long-term growth of air transport”.
The report’s analysts note however that it is too early to estimate what the short-term effects will be for aviation, adding that “it is clear there are downside risks, in particular in markets with exposure to the conflict”.
Factors that should be taken into consideration include the geographic extent, severity, and time-period for sanctions and/or airspace closures.
These impacts would be felt most severely in Russia, Ukraine and neighboring areas, the IATA report said. Pre-pandemic Russia was the 11th largest market for air transport services in terms of passenger numbers, including its large domestic market. Ukraine ranked 48.
The impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis on airline costs as a result of fluctuations in energy prices or rerouting to avoid Russian airspace could also have broader implications. Additionally, consumer confidence and economic activity are likely to be impacted even outside of Eastern Europe.
“The trajectory for the recovery in passenger numbers from Covid-19 was not changed by the Omicron variant. People want to travel. And when travel restrictions are lifted, they return to the skies. There is still a long way to go to reach a normal state of affairs, but the forecast for the evolution in passenger numbers gives good reason to be optimistic,” said Willie Walsh, IATA director general.
Key takeaways according to IATA’s February update:
– in 2021, overall traveler numbers recouped 47 percent of 2019 levels. This is expected to improve to 83 percent in 2022, 94 percent in 2023, 103 percent in 2024, and 111 percent in 2025
– last year, international traveler numbers recovered 27 percent of 2019 levels, expected to improve to 69 percent in 2022, 82 percent in 2023, 92 percent in 2024, and 101 percent in 2025
– in 2021, domestic traveler numbers were 61 percent of 2019 levels set on improving to 93 percent in 2022, 103 percent in 2023, 111 percent in 2024, and 118 percent in 2025.
IATA reiterated its call for the removal of all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, pre-departure antigen testing to enable quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers, and removal of all travel bans.