We all had high hopes for aviation recovery in 2021 after the stagnation of last year. Now, as we approach the end of its first quarter, it’s clear that this recovery isn’t as quick or widespread as we’d hoped it would be. However, there are many pluses and reasons for optimism.
Recently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported declining domestic air bookings due to uncertainly travelers are feeling about the ever-changing situations in different countries. The association also noted that even China – the largest domestic air travel market during the pandemic – seems to have hit a snag with low travel rates throughout Chinese New Year, a traditionally busy time for travel. Cargo remains consistently in demand and has recovered to pre-COVID levels. But this demand is not evenly distributed. Markets connecting Asia and North America are outperforming Europe and the North Atlantic market.
It was hoped that by this time, all global countries would be facilitating at least limited travel and that people would be prepared to travel and enabled to do so again. But, unfortunately, the new variants of COVID-19 that have been developing in different places have forced governments to again restrict travel in and out of their states. So, the prognosis is that the first half of this year isn’t going to be as good as was hoped.
However, we must remain positive. A year of being either restricted to their homes or areas has left many people with a huge appetite for travel. Vulnerable populations in the world’s developed countries are now getting vaccinated and it’s hoped a significant proportion will have received it soon. This will give people the confidence to travel, and also give governments the confidence to open their borders to internal visitors. Also, digital travel apps that enable travelers to securely control their health data and share it with relevant international authorities will be a game-changer. Already, many commercial airlines like Air New Zealand, Copa Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia, RwandAir, and Singapore Airlines have done or are committed to doing trials with the IATA Travel Pass. However, the contribution apps like this will make toward aviation recovery depends on governments enabling and accepting digital verifications for health records.
There’s no doubt our industry will bounce back, we just need to be patient, keep doing what we’re doing, and trust that countries will get this pandemic under control and passengers will begin traveling once it’s feasible for them to do so.
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