Strong appetite for air travel but ‘uneven recovery’ persists, says ACI World

By Luke Barras-hill |

The continued pax recovery this year has been driven by a surge in demand for air travel during the Northern Hemisphere summer season following the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Global international passenger traffic ‘will require almost one more year’ to recover and arrive at its 2019 record ‘only in the second half of 2024’, forecasts ACI World.

Worldwide passenger traffic is expected to reach 6.8 billion* in 2022, equating to 74.4% of 2019 traffic.

A quarterly assessment in late June forecast pax levels to improve to 77% of 2019 volumes at 7.1 billion in 2022, yet the industry continues to face stiff headwinds such as the conflict in Ukraine, global supply chain bottlenecks and spiralling price increases as central banks hike interest rates to curb inflation.

The voice of the world’s airports warns of a decrease in economic activity and potential impairment to consumer confidence, with the threat of recession an added headache for global aviation.

Despite the imbalanced nature of the global air passenger traffic recovery, ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira points to ‘a continued uptick overall in the second half of 2022, moving the industry closer to its full recovery – still forecast for 2024’.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World.

‘Continued uptick’ in H2

Strong pent-up demand for travel coupled with a relaxation in travel restrictions, high vaccination rates (80%) in major aviation markets and historically low unemployment levels are helping to fuel the rebound.

ACI says global domestic pax thresholds are expected to be on par with 2019 in late 2023.

During Q1 and Q2 this year, global passenger volumes totalled 1.3 billion and 1.7 billion, respectively.

This translated to 62% (Q1) and 75.2% (Q2) of 2019 levels. Compared with the projected baseline (2019), estimated traffic losses amounted to -44.4% in Q1 and -32.2% in Q2.

ACI estimates the pandemic to have removed approximately 5.2 billion passengers across global airports in 2021 to total 4.6 billion passengers. This represents a potential loss of 52.9% versus the projected (pre-Covid) baseline of 9.8 billion passengers for 2021.

The 2022 World Airport Traffic Report (WATR), which provides detailed analyses into the impact of the pandemic on airport passenger, movement, and cargo traffic from a global and regional perspective, is set to be released in due course.

*A loss of -33.1% compared with the projected baseline.

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