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

The Russia-Ukraine war, rising inflation, and ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns in China have pushed projections for a return to 2019 air traffic levels back by a full year.

Interactive

Air Travel Forecast: When Will Airlines Recover from Covid-19?
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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 March 2022.

  • While a strong start to air travel in the first quarter of 2022 boosted our baseline recovery scenario projections for the year, several headwinds are weighing on the longer-term outlook.
  • Our baseline recovery scenario for 2022 rose from 65% to 73% of 2019 levels due to the strong first quarter, with projected revenues for the year up from $432 billion to $488 billion (see panel 1 above).
  • However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising inflation, and ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns in China have dampened the longer-term outlook for global air travel (see panel 2). We don’t expect air traffic levels to return to prepandemic levels until the second quarter of 2025, a full 12 months later than our previous forecast.
  • Travel projections between Europe and Asia also have taken a significant hit, dropping from 70% to 56% of 2019 levels, reflecting both the impact of China’s lockdowns and soaring operation costs due to bans on flights over Russian airspace. Intraregional travel projections in Europe have also dipped due in part to the halt of commercial aviation capacity in Ukraine (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.

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