ACI World sees US$94 billion loss for airport industry in 2021

At least 4.7 billion fewer passengers are forecast to travel by year end

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Changi Airport in Singapore is still almost a ghost town in early 2021. A lone student waits to say goodbye to a friend in a nearly deserted departure hall. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Use this oneAirports Council International (ACI) World said on 25 March that  despite some positive signs for recovery emerging, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on airport revenues will still be deeply felt in 2021. The association said 4.7 billion fewer passengers are forecast to travel by the end of 2021 compared to the projected baseline, representing a decline of -47.5 percent of global passenger traffic. This reduction in travellers is estimated to equate to a loss in revenue of more than US$94 billion by the end of 2021, cutting in half expectations compared to the projected baseline.

As prospects for a recovery in 2021 begin to emerge, ACI World estimates that different regions of the world will recover at different rates. At country level, markets having significant domestic traffic are expected to recover in 2023 to pre-COVID-19 levels while markets with a significant share of international traffic are unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 or even 2025 in some cases.

Download the ACI World COVID-19 Economic Impact report here.

ACI World has said an interoperable health data trust framework to facilitate safe border reopening and cross-border travel must be established to support this recovery. ACI is supportive of any system which will allow testing and vaccination data to be shared consistently, effectively, and in a way that protects the personal data of those that use it.

Border closures and quarantines mean very passengers are coming to Changi Airport in Singapore. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

“The world is embarking on the biggest vaccination campaign in history, and we see positive indications in countries with high rates of vaccination and ACI World has discerned an escalation of these encouraging signs and prospects for recovery with a surge in travel in the second half of 2021 expected,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Despite this, COVID-19 remains an existential crisis for airports, airlines and their commercial partners and we need support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can fuel the global economic recovery. We hope an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by vaccination and safety measures should result in the number of people traveling outside of their countries will start this spring and significantly increase by mid-year. Aviation recovery will not take-off, however, without a coordinated and globally-consistent approach to vaccination and testing, coupled with a safe and interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information.”

Passengers in protective overall and masks at Suvarnabhumi Airport going to check-in for repatriation flights and waving good bye during COVID-19 outbreak. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Europe is forecast to remain the most affected region in absolute terms with an estimated change in revenues of more than -US$37.5 billion for the full year 2021 compared to 2019. In relative terms, the Middle East and Europe are forecast to suffer the biggest hits with decreases of -58.9 percent and -58.1 percent respectively. Asia-Pacific is the region with comparatively the least impact, it is still expected to experience a very significant decrease of -40.3 percent against the projected baseline.

“The priority for airports has always been to protect the health and welfare of travellers, staff, and the public and ICAO’s role in providing globally-consistent guidance will help to lay the foundation for the industry’s long term and sustained recovery,” de Oliveira said.

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