The coronavirus pandemic will continue to have a lasting impact on the air travel industry, with passenger traffic expected to drop by more than 3.6 billion in 2022, representing a 28.3 percent decrease from 2019 levels, the Airports Council International (ACI) World said in its latest report. 

Despite the reopening of borders in certain markets, the health outbreak is still forecast to remove an additional 4.6 billion flyers by the end of 2021, compared to volumes recorded in 2019, the industry body, which represents airports worldwide, said. 

Air passenger traffic plummeted last year because of the global lockdown and decline in consumer confidence in travel. According to ACI’s report, COVID-19 reduced the number of passengers passing through the gates of the world’s airports by more than 5.6 billion in 2020 alone. 

Airports also saw a sharp reduction in global aircraft movements during the year, decreasing by 39.5 percent to reach only 62 million. 

Domestic market leading the recovery 

However, ACI highlighted that the domestic market is now on a recovery path, particularly in markets like China and the United States, which is considered the world’s largest market for domestic flyers. 

Airports will continue to see an increase in domestic air traffic, reaching more than 3.1 billion passengers by the end of 2021, a level corresponding to more than half (58.5 percent) of that recorded prior to the pandemic. 

According to Luis Felipe Oliveira, ACI World Director General, the coronavirus pandemic has “completely altered” the airport business. 

“The economic value driven by airports cannot be understated when it comes to facilitating business and leisure travel, trade and the subsequent GDP, jobs, taxes and associated social benefits,” Oliveira said. 

“Air traffic is the lifeblood of the airport business, highlighting the necessity of government action to promote safe travel – including coordinated and risk-based approach to testing and vaccination – rather than enforcing full-scale restrictions and blanket measures.”

(Writing by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Mily Chakrabarty) 

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