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

The outlook has improved as countries have lifted pandemic restrictions, but recession and oil supply concerns threaten to thwart the 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 October 2022. Note that this month’s update incorporates a restatement of historical data that contributes to the upward revision of our forecast scenarios.  

  • Our baseline recovery scenario for 2022 has improved from earlier in the year amid a surge in travel as countries have lifted Covid-19 restrictions. Revenue is now expected to reach 84% of 2019’s level, with projected revenue for the year rising to $525 billion (see panel 1 and 2 above). A boost in China domestic travel played a key role in the improved outlook.
  • We expect Europe–North America travel to continue to outperform international travel to and from Asia, but Chinese demand, both domestic and international, remains difficult to predict (see panel 3).
  • Despite the overall baseline improvement, we expect a slower rate of growth, especially in Europe, over the next 18 months as discretionary spending begins to dwindle (see panel 3).
  • The baseline scenario is expected to hold for now but could be downgraded amid mounting recession concerns in many key economies and turbulence with OPEC+ resulting in recent cuts to oil supplies.
  • Recovery for business travel continues to lag recovery for other travel purposes, and we do not expect it to recover fully before 2025.

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.


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