Air travel boom erases COVID dip, says UN aviation agency

Air travel boom erases COVID dip
Madrid airport, Spain.Photo Courtesy:  Unsplash/John Oswald

The UN aviation agency on Wednesday (February 28, 2024) announced that air traffic levels were operating at around two per cent above their high in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic grounded much of the world’s population in lockdown.

Civil aviation organization ICAO said that the numbers for the first quarter of 2024 indicate that airlines will sustain the return to profitability recorded in 2023.

“The commitment of Member States to aligning their pandemic responses with the guidance developed by the ICAO Council has been crucial to the recovery of their air services,” said Council president Salvatore Sciacchitano.

“The implementation of ICAO’s post-pandemic guidance is now equally crucial to ensuring the resilience and sustainability of this recovery.”

The agency forecasts increasing traffic growth to around three per cent above 2019 levels, and possibly four per cent if the pace of recovery grows on routes which have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“The aspirational goals agreed upon by governments towards the decarbonization of air transport by 2050 are supporting the environmental sustainability of the recovery and future development of the global air transport network,” said ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar.

The analysis indicates that air traffic on most routes had already reached or surpassed pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.

Flying high

The major regional routes which passed the 2019 mark by the end of last year were travel within Europe; Europe to/from North America, the Middle East, southwest Asia and Africa; North America to/from Latin America and the Caribbean, southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific; Middle East to/from Southwest Asia and Africa.

Most international Asian routes, with the exception of those serving southwest Asia, continue to have substantially lower levels of traffic in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic levels.