Airlines globally operated 60% of 2019 capacity in 2021 and are expected to operate 77-80% of 2019 capacity in 2022, according to a new analysis and forecast issued by ICAO.
ICAO projects the world’s airlines will operate 88-90% of 2019 domestic capacity in 2022. But international capacity will only be 61-65% restored in 2022 versus 2019.
“Both positive signs and downside risks confront analysts trying to gauge how the aviation recovery will play out over the remainder of 2022,” ICAO said.
“In an optimistic scenario, passenger traffic is expected to recover to 86% percent of its 2019 levels by December 2022, based on 73% international traffic recovery and 95% domestic. More pessimistic scenarios point to a 75% [traffic] recovery based on 58% international and 86% percent domestic recoveries.”
Citing “current downturns,” ICAO has downgraded its long-term passenger traffic forecast. The UN aviation body now projects 3.6% annual average growth in passenger traffic through 2050, down from a projected 4.2% average annual rate of growth over the same period made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ICAO noted that 2021 was an up-and-down year for the recovery of global airline traffic and capacity. “The first quarter of 2021 saw a decrease in the rate of global air traffic recovery due to the sharp spike at that time in COVID-19 infections,” ICAO said. “The situation stabilized slightly in the second and third quarters, mainly due to rising vaccination rates, and with an accompanying relaxation in travel restrictions in various parts of the world during the peak travel season. However, this upward trend stalled quickly in the fourth quarter, with the emergence of the omicron variant.”
The recovery continues to see a divergence between domestic and international travel, with the former rebounding at a faster pace, as well as regional variation.
“Overall, domestic passenger traffic has recovered to 68% of pre-pandemic levels, while international traffic remains at just 28%,” ICAO noted.
“The global aviation recovery has also been characterized by significant regional variation, with the North and Latin America and Caribbean regions showing the highest recovery rates, Europe picking up noticeably during the summer travel season, and Africa and the Middle East recovering moderately, until Africa plunged again due to omicron restrictions. The Asia/Pacific was the weakest performing region as a result of slowed domestic and stagnant international traffic levels.”