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Air Travel Forecast: When Will Airlines Recover from Covid-19?

The Russia-Ukraine war and ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns in China continue to stymie global air traffic recovery.


Air Travel Forecast: When Will Airlines Recover from Covid-19?

In May 2020, we began making regular forecasts of how soon aviation demand would recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, based on several potential scenarios and the latest information.

Here are the latest developments as of April 2022.

  • Several headwinds pushed our baseline recovery scenario for 2022 down from 73% to 71% of 2019 global revenue, with projected revenue for the year decreasing from $488 billion to $475 billion (see panel 1 above). Among the challenges: continued Covid-19 lockdowns in China, slashed global GDP forecasts, and the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
  • However, our longer-term outlook for global air travel remains unchanged from the previous update (see panel 2). We don’t expect air traffic to return to prepandemic levels until the second quarter of 2025. One notable shift in the global landscape is the link between Covid-19 infection rates and air traffic has become less linear; recently, infection rates have been rising in many countries, but travel volume (particularly inbound from other countries) now depends mostly on local Covid-19 policies.
  • Travel projections between Europe and Asia this year continue to fall, reflecting both the impact of China’s lockdowns and soaring operation costs due to bans on flights over Russian airspace. Meanwhile, China’s domestic air travel could start to recover this summer assuming Covid-19 case rates improve (see panel 3).

Projected market and financial information, analyses, and conclusions are based (unless sourced otherwise) on external information and Bain & Company’s judgment. They are intended as a guide only and should not be construed as definitive forecasts or guarantees of future performance or results. No responsibility or liability whatsoever is accepted by any person, including Bain & Company, Inc. or its affiliates and their respective officers, employees, or agents, for any errors or omissions.


Bain’s Monthly Global Air Traffic Recovery Scenarios

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