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Global air traffic won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024: IATA

Holidaymakers at Gimpo Airport walk towards departure gates on Monday. (Yonhap)
Holidaymakers at Gimpo Airport walk towards departure gates on Monday. (Yonhap)
The International Air Transport Association says air travel will take four years for a full recovery as a second wave of pandemic looms large and consumer confidence tumbles, pushing its previous projection back by a year.

Short haul travel is expected to recover faster than long haul travel, the association said Tuesday, which means passenger numbers will return to normal levels before air traffic.

The prediction comes as global air traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometers, fell 86.5 percent in June compared to the same time last year – a slight improvement on a 91 percent contraction in May.

IATA also outlined several trends in recent months for its more pessimistic recovery outlook including slow virus containment in the US and weak consumer confidence.

“There is little sign of virus containment in many important emerging economies, which in combination with the US, represent around 40 percent of global air travel markets,” the association said.

While the aviation industry worldwide has faced a serious blow, the Asia-Pacific region was somewhat less affected than other regions in June in terms of revenue passenger kilometers and available seat kilometers, which dropped 74.4 percent and 69.6 percent, respectively.

In June, South Korea’s aviation industry saw the number of international flight passengers plummet by 97.6 percent, from over 7.7 million to just 183,000 travelers.

Domestic travel suffered a 23.6 percent drop in passenger numbers during the same month.

On Wednesday, Incheon International Airport said it was expecting “serious difficulties” following a drastic drop in air travel demand amid the pandemic. Increasing airport service fees and putting staff on leave are being mulled as ways to cut spending, the airport added.

Yim Hyun-su (