View from the top
ACI World director, general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, reflects on the impact COVID-19 has had on aviation and plotting the road to recovery one year on from the outbreak of the global pandemic.
A year on from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 continues to have a huge impact on our lives and leave us dreaming of a time when we will be able to take to the skies again.
At the time of writing in March 2020, we were starting to see some signs of recovery across the world. Indeed, with over 500 million vaccine doses administered across more than 130 countries in the world’s biggest ever vaccination programme, there are signs of fresh optimism on the horizon.
Despite this, COVID-19 remains an existential crisis for airports, airlines and their commercial partners. As some countries move away from all-encompassing lockdowns and try to limit the infections with targeted and less disruptive restrictions, others have retained either partially or totally restrictive regulations pertaining to international travel, including self-quarantine on arrival.
New data published in our Advisory Bulletin: The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business and path to recovery, shows that 4.7 billion fewer passengers are forecast to travel by year end 2021 compared to the projected baseline, representing a decline of 47.5% of global passenger traffic.
This reduction in travellers is estimated to result in a loss in revenue of more than $94 billion by the end of 2021, cutting in half expectations compared to the projected baseline.
ACI World expects the recovery to happen in phases from an initial restart with limited number of passengers, through a slow build in travellers, and, finally, a return to more normal passenger volumes.
Markets with significant domestic traffic are not expected to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels before 2023 and markets with a significant share of international traffic will recover much more slowly in 2024 and 2025.
Although the situation remains tough, we remain hopeful that an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by vaccination and safety measures should result in the number of people travelling abroad rising significantly by mid-year.
Recovery will only be possible, however, if governments can get behind aviation with policy support and assistance to pursue a co-ordinated and risk-based approach to combining testing and vaccination to promote travel when the epidemiological situation allows.
We welcomed the recent Phase III updates issued by the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) and adopted by the ICAO Council.
The guidance will provide immeasurable assistance in promoting the harmonisation of measures being introduced around the world to facilitate the restart of air travel, which will allow aviation to be a key engine driving global economic recovery.
Furthermore, digital ‘health pass’ trials, such as CommonPass, are presenting a strong case for using digital technology to deliver a globally harmonised approach for the validation and authentication of testing and vaccination.
In March, JetBlue and The Commons Project Foundation, in partnership with the government of Aruba and COVID-19-testing partners, launched the use of the CommonPass platform on flights from Boston Logan to Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba.
As a result, JetBlue’s passengers from Boston with the digital health pass can use a fast-track immigration lane on arrival at the island as employees can quickly establish their COVID-19 status and documents.
We are also seeing some good progress being made with several different digital health passes, such as IATA Travel pass, OK pass and many others, which will play a key role in the recovery process.
We applaud the Good Health Pass Collaborative initiative to create a blueprint for interoperable digital health pass systems that will help restore global travel and restart the global economy.
Establishing an interoperable health data trust framework to facilitate safe border reopening and cross-border travel will be key to support global 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.
As parts of the aviation ecosystem continue to make small steps towards recovery, a co-ordinated and globally-consistent approach to vaccination and testing – coupled with interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information – remains the key to a safe and secure, and health-conscious restart and recovery of our sector. The industry is ready to restart and we are all in this together.