Air transport is unlikely to recover until 2024

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FRANKFURT – Global air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and will take until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic levels, the airline industry trade association said on Tuesday. The International Air Transport Association has pushed back its forecast for a year due to the slow containment of the epidemic in the United States and in developing countries.

Industry sees a rebound from the depths of shutdowns in April, but the bad news is any increase “is barely visible,” IATA chief economist Brian Pearce told a briefing on Tuesday online for journalists.

Pearce said air travel was not rebounding alongside rising business confidence in Europe, the United States and China. Traffic declined 86.5% in June compared to the same month a year ago, compared to a 94.1% drop in April, measured in revenue passenger-kilometers, or the distance traveled by all generating passengers of income.

This improvement is “nowhere near the increase in business confidence,” Pearce said. China is rebounding more than other countries, while the recovery in the United States has been thwarted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in a number of states.

Along with further surges, travel is also held back by low consumer confidence and limited travel budgets at struggling businesses.

Despite parking many of their planes, airlines are struggling to fill enough seats to make money. Planes were only 62.9% full on domestic flights around the world, well below levels at which airlines are making money, and an abysmal 38.9% for international travel.

The United States is seeing more cases of the coronavirus after some states move to lift restrictions on public life and business. The summer holiday season in Europe saw more people on the move and an increase in cases in Germany, which had previously done better than many other countries at mitigating the outbreak.

Director of the Robert Koch Institute has expressed concern over the increase in cases. Germany has issued a travel warning for three regions of Spain and the UK has imposed a 14-day quarantine for travelers returning from Spain, a popular holiday destination.

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