Category Archives: IATA

IATA calls on states to follow WHO guidance on cross-border travel

IATA issued this statement:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on states to follow new guidance on travel from the World Health Organization (WHO). The guidance recommends a “risk-based approach” to implementing measures related to COVID-19 and international travel.

Specifically, WHO recommended that governments:

  • Do not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a mandatory condition for entry or exit
  • May relax measures such as testing and/or quarantine requirements for travelers who are fully vaccinated or have had a confirmed previous COVID-19 infection within the past six months and are no longer infectious.
  • Ensure alternative pathways for unvaccinated individuals through testing so that they are able to travel internationally. The WHO recommends rRT-PCR tests, or antigen detection rapid diagnostic tests (Ag-RDTs) followed by confirmatory rRT-PCR tests of positive samples, for this purpose.
  • Implement test and/or quarantine measures for international travelers “on a risk-based manner” with policies on testing and quarantine regularly reviewed to ensure they are lifted when no longer necessary.

“These commonsense, risk-based recommendations from WHO, if followed by states, will allow for international air travel to resume while minimizing the chance of importing COVID-19. As WHO notes—and as the latest UK testing data proves—international travelers are not a high-risk group in terms of COVID-19. Out of 1.65 million tests carried out on arriving international passengers in the UK since February, only 1.4% were positive for COVID-19. It’s long past time for governments to incorporate data into risk-based decision-making process for re-opening borders,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

WHO also called on states to communicate “in a timely and adequate manner” any changes to international health-related measures and requirements. “Consumers face a maze of confusing, uncoordinated and fast-changing border entry rules that discourage them from traveling, causing economic hardship across those employed in the travel and tourism sector. According to our latest passenger survey, 70% of recent travelers thought the rules were a challenge to understand,” said Walsh.

Additionally, WHO encouraged states to look at bilateral, multilateral, and regional agreements, particularly among neighboring counties, “with the aim of facilitating the recovery of key socioeconomic activities” including tourism, for which international travel plays a vital role.

“The pandemic has put more than 46 million jobs, normally supported by aviation, at risk. By incorporating these latest WHO recommendations into their border opening strategies, states can begin to reverse the economic damage of the past 18 months and put the world on the road to recovery,“ said Walsh.

Our Take:

International airline travel is increasingly becoming more reactive to where COVID-19 cases are rising or in decline. The roll-out of vaccines on a worldwide basis will also affect each country. International airlines therefore will become more reactive to the various changes country by country.

The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard.

The BBC monitors the worldwide situation:

Covid map: Coronavirus cases, deaths, vaccinations by country – BBC News

The New York Times also monitors the worldwide situation:

 

Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Finally the John Hopkins University has been the standard for worldwide tracking:

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

 

Aviation, travel and tourism sectors applaud EU Parliament vote on “EU COVID-19 Certificates”

IATA has made this announcement:

Setting Final Negotiations with European Commission and Council into Motion

  • Swift alignment by all three EU Institutions critical in restoring free movement for EU citizens by summer.
  • A clear, simple and harmonized European approach is desperately needed to reopen travel in a safe and responsible way.

Europe’s aviation, travel and tourism sectors fully welcome yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament on the EU’s proposed Digital Green Certificate Regulation, setting trilogue negotiations between the Parliament, the Council and the European Commission into motion. Swift action and alignment among the institutions is now critical in order to make the certificates operational by June and ensure reciprocity with non-EU systems. Common, interoperable, secure and GDPR-compliant health certificates represent an essential tool to facilitate the free movement of people within the EU and reopen travel in a safe and responsible way through the easing, and ultimately lifting of current travel restrictions.

The Parliament position brings forward important changes to the original proposal:

  • A new name, “EU COVID-19 Certificate” has been agreed to make it clearer to EU citizens and also limit the certificates’ use to during the pandemic.
  • Free and accessible testing: Testing is absolutely key in the fight against COVID-19, and the requirement to conduct pre-departure tests (often PCR) should not create an economic distortion between travelers. With tests ranging from €10 to €150, it is clear that such high costs could become a deterrent to travel – in particular among families.
  • Full equality among vaccinated and tested citizens: No additional measures such as quarantine or further testing should be imposed on travelers presenting a valid “EU COVID-19 Certificate”.

The proposed amendments send a strong political message from the Parliament on the urgency to restore free movement in the EU. This is not a privilege — it is a right as one of the pillars of the single market enshrined in the European treaties. Safely and swiftly re-establishing free movement is both possible and vitally important – not only for holidaymakers, but also for cross-border workers and citizens who will be able to visit their families more easily once the certificates are operational. Vaccination drives in Europe continue to gain momentum, with 26.5% of EU citizens having received at least one dose, compared with 16% four weeks ago.

According to a recent IATA survey, 72% of people want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible. The sectors therefore urge swift negotiations and agreement by mid-May so that pilot testing and full implementation can take place in June. Time is of the essence, to offer EU citizens a much-needed breather after a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions which have negatively impacted consumers’ mental health and well-being. Multiple studies  show that travel has positive effects on mental and physical health thanks to human and nature connections, boosting people’s energy and relieving stress and anxiety.

Airlines to recover after a “Longer and Deeper Crisis” in 2021

From CompanyDebt:

Here are the key facts:

  • IATA, the International Air Travel Association, has warned that 2021 will mean global losses of $47.7bn for airlines.
  • January and February figures were down 86.6 percent on 2019 levels.
  • Airline Industry Debt could rise to $550bn by end of the year.
  • The second half of the year will see improved passenger levels, as a result of vaccination progress in developed countries.
  • Domestic flights may reach 96% of pre-COVID levels by the end of the year.

Read the full article.

IATA: Negative passenger demand trend continues in February

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger traffic fell in February 2021, both compared to pre-COVID levels (February 2019) and compared to the immediate month prior (January 2021).

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to February 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 74.7% compared to February 2019. That was worse than the 72.2% decline recorded in January 2021 versus two years ago.
  • International passenger demand in February was 88.7% below February 2019, a further drop from the 85.7% year-to-year decline recorded in January and the worst growth outcome since July 2020. Performance in all regions worsened compared to January 2021.
  • Total domestic demand was down 51.0% versus pre-crisis (February 2019) levels. In January it was down 47.8% on the 2019 period. This largely was owing to weakness in China travel, driven by government requests that citizens stay at home during the Lunar New Year travel period.

“February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel. In fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants. An important exception was the Australian domestic market. A relaxation of restrictions on domestic flying resulted in significantly more travel. This tells us that people have not lost their desire travel. They will fly, provided they can do so without facing quarantine measures,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

FEBRUARY 2021 (% VS FEB 2019) WORLD SHARE1 RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100.0%
-74.7%
-63.1%
-25.3%
55.4%
Africa
1.9%
-66.1%
-53.6%
-19.0%
51.6%
Asia Pacific
38.6%
-74.9%
-64.8%
-23.8%
59.1%
Europe
23.6%
-82.8%
-75.0%
-25.4%
56.3%
Latin America
5.7%
-62.4%
-55.1%
-13.3%
68.3%
Middle East
7.4%
-81.7%
-66.8%
-32.5%
39.8%
North America
22.7%
-66.1%
-48.1%
-27.9%
52.7%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

International Passenger Markets

Asia-Pacific airlines’ February traffic was down 95.2% compared to February 2019, little changed from the 94.8% decline registered for January 2021 compared to January 2019. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for an eighth consecutive month. Capacity was down 87.5% and the load factor sank 50.0 percentage points to 31.1%, the lowest among regions.

European carriers recorded an 89.0% decline in traffic in February versus February 2019, substantially worse than the  83.4% decline in January compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity sank 80.5% and load factor fell by 36.0 percentage points to 46.4%.

Middle Eastern airlines saw demand fall 83.1% in February compared to February 2019, worsened from an 82.1% demand drop in January, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 68.6%, and load factor declined 33.4 percentage points to 39.0%.

North American carriers’ February traffic sank 83.1% compared to the 2019 period, a deterioration from a 79.2% decline in January year to year. Capacity sagged 63.9%, and load factor dropped 41.9 percentage points to 36.7%.

Latin American airlines experienced an 83.5% demand drop in February, compared to the same month in 2019, markedly worse than the 78.5% decline in January 2019. February capacity was 75.4% down compared to February 2019 and load factor dropped 26.7 percentage points to 54.6%, highest among the regions for a fifth consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic dropped 68.0% in February versus February two years ago, which was a setback compared to a 66.1% decline recorded in January compared to January 2019. February capacity contracted 54.6% versus February 2019, and load factor fell 20.5 percentage points to 49.1%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

FEBRUARY 2021 (%VS FEB 2019) WORLD SHARE1 RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Domestic
54.3%
-51.04%
-37.1%
-18.3%
64.3%
Dom. Australia
0.7%
-60.5%
-59.4%
-2.1%
75.8%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-34.9%
-30.3%
-5.4%
77.0%
Dom. China P.R.
19.9%
-51.2%
-34.7%
-22.2%
65.5%
Dom India
2.1%
-30.8%
-17.5%
-14.4%
74.9%
Dom. Japan
1.4%
-72.8%
-59.4%
-23.7%
48.1%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
2.9%
-5.4%
6.7%
83.4%
Dom. US
16.6%
-56.1%
-38.3%
-23.5%
58.0%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

Australia’s domestic traffic was down 60.5% in February compared to February 2019, dramatically improved compared to the 77.3% decline in January over 2019. Some state border restrictions were eased in early February.

US domestic traffic declined 56.1% in February versus the same month in 2019, improved from the 58.4% decline in January compared to two years ago. The improvement was driven by falling rates of contagion and accelerating vaccinations.

The Bottom Line

“The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently stated that vaccinated individuals can travel safely. That is good news. We have also recently seen Oxera-Edge Health research highlighting the efficacy of fast, accurate and affordable rapid tests for COVID-19. These developments should reassure governments that there are ways to efficiently manage the risks of COVID-19 without relying on demand-killing quarantine measures and/or expensive and time-consuming PCR testing,” said Walsh.

“Two key components for an efficient restart of travel need to be urgently progressed. The first is the development of global standards for digital COVID-19 test and/or vaccination certificates. The second is government agreement to accept certificates digitally. Our experiences to date already demonstrate that paper-based systems are not a sustainable option. They are vulnerable to fraud. And, even with the limited amount of flying today, the check-in process needs pre-COVID-19 staffing levels just to handle the paperwork.
Paper processes will not be sustainable when travel ramps up. The IATA Travel Pass app was developed precisely in anticipation of this need to manage health credentials digitally. Its first full implementation trial is focused on Singapore, where the government has already announced that it will accept health certificates through the app. This will be an essential consideration for all governments when they are ready to relink their economies with the world through air travel,” said Walsh.

IATA: From Bad to Worse: January Passenger Demand Falls Further

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger traffic fell in January 2021, both compared to pre-COVID levels (January 2019) and compared to the immediate month prior (December 2020).

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to January 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand in January 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 72.0% compared to January 2019. That was worse than the 69.7% year-over-year decline recorded in December 2020.
  • Total domestic demand was down 47.4% versus pre-crisis (January 2019) levels. In December it was down 42.9% on the previous year. This weakening is largely driven by stricter domestic travel controls in China over the Lunar New Year holiday period.
  • International passenger demand in January was 85.6% below January 2019, a further drop compared to the 85.3% year-to-year decline recorded in December.

“2021 is starting off worse than 2020 ended and that is saying a lot. Even as vaccination programs gather pace, new COVID variants are leading governments to increase travel restrictions. The uncertainty around how long these restrictions will last also has an impact on future travel. Forward bookings in February this year for the Northern Hemisphere summer travel season were 78% below levels in February 2019,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

JANUARY 2021 (%CHG. VS 2019) WORLD SHARE1 RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100.0%
-72.0%
-58.7%
-25.7%
54.1%
Africa
1.9%
-63.9%
-53.0%
-16.4%
54.4%
Asia Pacific
38.6%
-71.5%
-59.0%
-24.8%
56.6%
Europe
23.7%
-77.4%
-68.7%
-22.4%
57.6%
Latin America
5.7%
-58.0%
-49.5%
-13.9%
68.5%
Middle East
7.4%
-80.7%
-65.8%
-32.4%
42.2%
North America
22.7%
-67.5%
-46.5%
-31.2%
48.4%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

International Passenger Markets

Asia-Pacific airlines’ January traffic plummeted 94.6% compared to the 2019 period, virtually unchanged from the 94.4% decline registered for December 2020 compared to a year ago. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for a seventh consecutive month. Capacity dropped 86.5% and load factor sank 49.4 percentage points to 32.6%, by far the lowest among regions.

European carriers had an 83.2% decline in traffic in January versus January 2019, worsened from an 82.6% decline in December compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity sank 73.6% and load factor fell by 29.2 percentage points to 51.4%.

Middle Eastern airlines saw demand plunge 82.3% in January compared to January 2019, which was broadly unchanged from an 82.6% demand drop in December versus a year ago. Capacity fell 67.6%, and load factor declined 33.9 percentage points to 40.8%.

North American carriers’ January traffic fell 79.0% compared to the 2019 period, up slightly from a 79.5% decline in December year to year. Capacity sagged 60.5%, and load factor dropped 37.8 percentage points to 42.9%.

Latin American airlines experienced a 78.5% demand drop in January, compared to the same month in 2019, worsened from a 76.2% decline in December year-to-year. January capacity was 67.9% down compared to January 2019 and load factor dropped 27.2 percentage points to 55.3%, highest among the regions for a fourth consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic dropped 66.1% in January, which was a modest improvement compared to a 68.8% decline recorded in December versus a year ago. January capacity contracted 54.2% versus January 2019, and load factor fell 18.4 percentage points to 52.3%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

JANUARY 2021 (%CHG. VS 2019) WORLD SHARE1 RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Domestic
54.3%
-47.4%
-30.5%
-19.3%
60.1%
Dom. Australia
0.7%
-81.6%
-77.8%
-13.3%
64.8%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-31.4%
-29.4%
-2.4%
81.6%
Dom. China P.R.
19.9%
-33.9%
-15.1%
-18.2%
64.0%
Dom India
2.1%
-37.6%
-22.5%
-16.8%
69.3%
Dom. Japan
1.5%
-71.3%
-39.9%
-35.0%
31.9%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
5.5%
-0.7%
4.7%
80.1%
Dom. US
16.6%
-60.3%
-37.8%
-28.7%
50.5%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

China’s domestic traffic was down 33.9% in January compared to January 2019, dramatically worsened compared to the 8.5% year-over-year decline in December. The fall was owing to stricter traffic controls ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday period amid several localized COVID-19 outbreaks.

Russia’s domestic traffic, by contrast, rose 5.5% compared to January 2019, a turnaround from the 12.0% year-to-year decline in December versus the same month in 2019. It was driven by a fall in COVID-19 cases since a peak late in December and by national holidays in the first week of the month.

The Bottom Line

“To say that 2021 has not gotten off to a good start is an understatement. Financial prospects for the year are worsening as governments tighten travel restrictions. We now expect the industry to burn through $75-$95 billion in cash this year, rather than turning cash positive in the fourth quarter, as previously thought. This is not something that the industry will be able to endure without additional relief measures from governments.

Increased testing capability and vaccine distribution are the keys for governments to unlock economic activity, including travel. It is critical that governments build and share their restart plans along with the benchmarks that will guide them. This will enable the industry to be prepared to energize the recovery without any unnecessary delay,” said de Juniac.

Global standards to securely record test and vaccination data in formats that will be internationally recognized are urgently needed. “These will be critical to restarting international travel if governments continue to require verified testing or vaccination data. IATA will soon launch the IATA Travel Pass to help travelers and governments manage digital health credentials. But the full benefit of IATA Travel Pass cannot be realized until governments agree the standards for the information they want,” said de Juniac.

IATA: Airlines to remain cash negative through 2021

IATA issued this report:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released new analysis showing that the airline industry is expected to remain cash negative throughout 2021. Previous analysis (November 2020) indicated that airlines would turn cash positive in the fourth quarter of 2021. At the industry level, airlines are now not expected to be cash positive until 2022.

Estimates for cash burn in 2021 have ballooned to the $75 billion to $95 billion range from a previously anticipated $48 billion. The following factors play into this estimate:

  • Weak Start for 2021: It is already clear that the first half of 2021 will be worse than earlier anticipated. This is because governments have tightened travel restrictions in response to new COVID-19 variants. Forward bookings for summer (July-August) are currently 78% below levels in February 2019 (comparisons to 2020 are distorted owing to COVID-19 impacts).
  • Optimistic Scenario: From this lower starting point for the year, an optimistic scenario would see travel restrictions gradually lifted once the vulnerable populations in developed economies have been vaccinated, but only in time to facilitate tepid demand over the peak summer travel season in the northern hemisphere. In this case 2021 demand would be 38% of 2019 levels. Airlines would burn through $75 billion of cash over the year. But cash burn of $7 billion in the fourth quarter would be significantly improved from an anticipated $33 billion cash burn in the first quarter.
  • Pessimistic Scenario: This scenario would see airlines burn through $95 billion over the year. There would be an improving trend from a $33 billion cash burn in the first quarter reducing to $16 billion in the fourth quarter. The driver of this scenario would be governments retaining significant travel restrictions through the peak northern summer travel season. In this case, 2021 demand would only be 33% of 2019 levels.

“With governments having tightening border restrictions, 2021 is shaping up to be a much tougher year than previously expected. Our best-case scenario sees airlines burning through $75 billion in cash this year. And it could be as bad as $95 billion. More emergency relief from governments will be needed. A functioning airline industry can eventually energize the economic recovery from COVID-19. But that won’t happen if there are massive failures before the crisis ends. If governments are unable to open their borders, we will need them to open their wallets with financial relief to keep airlines viable,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

With airlines now expected to burn cash throughout 2021 it is vital that governments and the industry are fully prepared to restart the moment governments agree that it is safe to re-open borders. That makes three initiatives critical:

Planning

Preparing the industry to safely restart after a year or more of disruption will take careful planning and months of preparation. Governments can ensure that airlines are prepared to reconnect people and economies by working with industry to develop the benchmarks and plans that would enable an orderly and timely restart.

“The UK has set a good example. Earlier this week it laid out a structure for re-opening based on an improvement in the COVID-19 situation. This gives airlines a framework to plan the restart, even if it needs to be adjusted along the way. Other governments should take note as a best practice for working with industry,” said de Juniac.

Health Credentials

It is becoming clear that vaccines and testing will play a role as the pandemic comes under control and economies ramp up, including the travel sector. The IATA Travel Pass will enable travelers to securely control their health data and share it with relevant authorities. A growing list of airlines—including Air New Zealand, Copa Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, RwandAir, and Singapore Airlines—have done or are committed to doing trials with IATA Travel Pass.

Efficient digital management of health credentials is vital to restart. Manual processes will not be able to cope with volumes once the recovery begins. Digital solutions must be secure, work with existing systems, align with global standards and respect data privacy. In developing the IATA Travel Pass these are fully in focus. The IATA Travel App will help to set the bar very high for managing health credentials, protecting against fraud and enabling a convenient travel process. While there is choice in the market for solutions, there should be no compromise on the fundamentals, or we risk failing systems, disappointed governments and travelers, and a delayed restart,” said de Juniac.

Global Standards: As vaccination programs and testing capacity expand, two developments have become critical—global standards to record tests and vaccines; and a plan to retrospectively record those who have already been vaccinated.

“Speed is critical. Fraudulent COVID-19 test results are already proving to be an issue. And as vaccine programs ramp up governments are using paper processes and differing digital standards to record who has been vaccinated. These are not the conditions needed to support a successful restart at scale when governments open borders. The WHO, ICAO, and OECD are working on standards, but each day without them means the challenge gets bigger. We need an early conclusion by competent authorities that the industry can plan around,” said de Juniac.

“Even as governments focus on managing the COVID-19 crisis, we must be thinking a step ahead to the plans, tools and standards needed to restart flying and energize the economic recovery from COVID-19. Working in partnership is nothing new for airlines or for governments. It’s how we have delivered safe, efficient, and reliable connectivity for decades. For a year it’s been lockdowns and restrictions as vaccines were developed and testing capacity expanded. The reason for all the pain that this has caused is to keep people safe and to eventually be able to retore their well-being and that of the economy. With good news on vaccines and growing testing capacity, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. So, it’s the time to ask governments for their restart plan and to offer any support from industry that could help,” said de Juniac.

IATA: COVID-19 shakes up the rankings of the world airports for connections (China now has the top four cities)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data revealing that the COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on international connectivity, shaking up the rankings of the world’s most connected cities.

  • London, the world’s number one most connected city in September 2019, has seen a 67% decline in connectivity. By September 2020, it had fallen to number eight.
  • Shanghai is now the top ranked city for connectivity with the top four most connected cities all in China—Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
  • New York (-66% fall in connectivity), Tokyo (-65%), Bangkok (-81%), Hong Kong (-81%) and Seoul (-69%) have all exited the top ten.
  • The study reveals that cities with large numbers of domestic connections now dominate, showing the extent to which international connectivity has been shut down.
RANKING SEPTEMBER 2019 SEPTEMBER 2020
1
London
Shanghai
2
Shanghai
Beijing
3
New York
Guangzhou
4
Beijing
Chengdu
5
Tokyo
Chicago
6
Los Angeles
Shenzhen 
7
Bangkok
Los Angeles
8
Hong Kong
London
9
Seoul
Dallas
10
Chicago
Atlanta

“The dramatic shift in the connectivity rankings demonstrates the scale at which the world’s connectivity has been re-ordered over the last months. But the important point is that rankings did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity. That declined overall in all markets. The rankings shifted because the scale of the decline was greater for some cities than others. There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries. In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets. The message we must take from this study is the urgent need to re-build the global air transport network,” said Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Member External Relations.

IATA’s 76th Annual General Meeting called on governments to safely re-open borders using testing. “The systematic testing of travelers is the immediate solution to rebuilding the connectivity that we have lost. The technology exists. The guidelines for implementation have been developed. Now we need to implement, before the damage to the global air transport network becomes irreparable,” said Mikosz.

Air transport is a major engine of the global economy. In normal times some 88 million jobs and $3.5 trillion in GDP is supported by aviation. More than half of this employment and economic value is at risk from the collapse in global air travel demand. “Governments must realize that there are major consequences for peoples’ lives and livelihoods. At least 46 million jobs supported by air transport are in peril. And the strength of the economic recovery from COVID-19 will be severely compromised without the support of a functioning air transport network,” said Mikosz.

IATA’s air connectivity index measures how well connected a country’s cities are to other cities around the world, which is critical for trade, tourism, investment and other economic flows. It is a composite measure reflecting the number of seats flown to the destinations served from a country’s major airports and the economic importance of those destinations.

COVID-19 impacts on connectivity by region (April 2019-April 2020, IATA Connectivity Index measure)

Africa suffered a 93% decline in connectivity. Ethiopia managed to buck the trend. During the first peak of the pandemic in April 2020, Ethiopia maintained connections with 88 international destinations. Many aviation markets reliant on tourism, such as Egypt, South Africa and Morocco, were particularly severely impacted.

Asia-Pacific saw a 76% decline in connectivity. Stronger domestic aviation markets, such as China, Japan and South Korea performed better among the most connected countries in the region. Despite the relatively large domestic aviation market, Thailand was severely impacted perhaps because of the country’s high reliance on international tourism.

Europe experienced a 93% fall in connectivity. European countries saw significant declines across most markets, although Russian connectivity has held up better than Western European countries.

Middle East countries saw connectivity decline by 88%. With the exception of Qatar, connectivity levels reduced by more than 85% for the five most connected countries in the region. Despite border closures, Qatar allowed passengers to transit between flights. It was also an important hub for air cargo.

North American connectivity declined 73%. Canada’s connectivity (-85% decline) was hit more heavily than the United States (-72%). In part, this reflects the large domestic aviation market in the United States, which despite a significant passenger decline, has continued to support connectivity.

Latin America suffered a 91% collapse in connectivity. Mexico and Chile performed relatively better than the other most connected countries, perhaps due to the timing of domestic lockdowns in these countries and how strictly they were enforced.

Before the pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth in air connectivity was a global success story. Over the last two decades the number of cities directly linked by air (city-pair connections) more than doubled while over the same period, air travel costs fell by around half.

The top-ten most connected countries in the world mostly saw significant increases over the 2014-2019 period. The United States remained the most connected country, with growth of 26%. China, in second place, grew connectivity by 62%. Other standout performers in the top ten included fourth-place India (+89%) and ninth-place Thailand (+62%).

IATA’s research explored the benefits of increased air connectivity. The standout conclusions were:

  • A positive link between connectivity and productivity. A 10% rise in connectivity, relative to a country’s GDP, will boost labour productivity levels by 0.07%.
  • The impact is greater for developing countries. Investments in air transport capacity in countries where connectivity is currently relatively low will have a much larger impact on their productivity and economic success than a similar level of investment in a relatively developed country.
  • Tourism revenue may be reinvested to form capital assets. Air transport has contributed to greater employment opportunities and wider economic benefits through the tourism catalytic effects, particularly in small island states. In emerging market economies, there may be a structural shortage of demand, so tourism spend can fill in the gap.
  • Tax revenues increase from enhanced economic activity. Air connectivity facilitates economic activity and growth in a given country, which may have a positive impact on government tax revenues.

View the connectivity presentation (pdf).

Meanwhile air cargo is recovering faster than passenger travel:

IATA AGM calls for reopening borders with testing and without quarantine

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 76th Annual General Meeting (AGM) unanimously resolved to urgently call on governments to re-open borders to travelIATA is proposing systematic testing of international travelers which would permit the lifting of border restrictions and provide an alternative to current quarantine rules. 

Quarantines essentially kill demand for air travel and governments need to immediately consider the drastic socio-economic effect this is having. International air travel continues to be down 90% on 2019 levels. Current estimates are that as many as 46 million jobs supported by air travel could be lost and that the economic activity sustained by aviation will be reduced by US $1.8 trillion. 

“People want and need global mobility. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Take-off measures make flying safe. But border closures, movement restrictions and quarantine measures make travel impossible for most. We must manage how we live with the virus. But that does not have to mean destroying aviation, risking millions of jobs, crippling economies and tearing apart the international social fabric. We could safely open borders today with systematic COVID-19 testing, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.   

In its resolution the AGM also:  

  • Reaffirmed the industry’s continuing commitment to implementing globally agreed biosafety protocols,  
  • Encouraged governments to implement guidance developed by ICAO 
  • Asked governments to ensure that aviation staff and international travelers are prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination once safe and effective treatments become available and health care workers and vulnerable groups have been protected. 

The AGM also reinforced the vital role of air transport in facilitating the global response to the pandemic, including the timely distribution of medicines, testing kits, protective equipment and eventually vaccines around the world.  

Reuters: Airlines need another $80 billion in aid to survive – IATA

From Reuters:

“Airlines will need $70-80 billion in aid to survive the coronavirus crisis, or another half again of the amount already received from governments, their global industry body IATA) warned.”

Read the full article.

IATA welcomes US Military report on low risk of catching COVID-19 on a flight

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the release of the results of testing by the United States Transportation Command (US Transcom) confirming the low risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard an aircraft.

The US Transcom testing, which was conducted in August, found that “the overall exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens, like coronavirus, is very low” on the types of airline aircraft typically contracted to move Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and their families, US Transcom stated. More than 300 aerosol releases, simulating a passenger infected with COVID-19, were performed over eight days using United Airlines Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 twin-aisle aircraft.

“Last week, IATA reported that since the start of 2020 there have been 44 cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey, out of 1.2 billion passenger journeys in 2020. The US Transcom research provides further evidence that the risk of infection onboard an aircraft appears to be very low, and certainly lower than many other indoor environments,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

The US Transcom testing showed that the aerosol was “rapidly diluted by the high air exchange rates” of a typical aircraft cabin. Aerosol particles remained detectable for a period of less than six minutes on average. Both aircraft models tested removed particulate matter 15 times faster than a typical home ventilation system and 5-6 times faster “than the recommended design specifications for modern hospital operating or patient isolation rooms.” Testing was done with and without a mask for the simulated infected passenger.

The testing was conducted in partnership with Boeing and United Airlines, as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Zeteo Tech, S3i and the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute.