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Air travel could normalize much later

Airlines, airports, related services companies and travelers will have to wait a bit longer before air traffic around the world returns to pre-pandemic levels, according to Standard and Poors Global Ratings. 

Air travel recovery has shown to be irregular by region and uncertain due to spikes in COVID cases from the delta variant. 

According to its report – Airports Face A Long Delay To Global Air Traffic Recovery – S&P believes the much awaited recovery may happen until late 2022 or later, especially if long-haul air traffic remains subdued. It will also be highly vulnerable to pandemic-related travel restrictions and sluggish business travel. 

Domestic travel reached 85% of the 2019 level in July this year across the Americas and Asia, but international traffic was only 26%, according to the International Air Transport Association, indicating a protracted global air traffic recovery. 

The increase in domestic air travel during summer helped improve the outlook that US airports would stabilize this year, although the spread of the delta variant prompted a more cautious projection. 

In Europe, air traffic reached only 20% to 25% of 2019 levels in January to July. 

According to the S&P report: “Almost all our airport ratings still carry negative outlooks; even if traffic picks up to about 40%, the full-year average will be at the bottom of the 30%-50% range we expected. The situation is mixed in Asia-Pacific, where international travel through Australian airports is just 1%-3% of that in 2019 and although domestic air travel increased to 60%-80%, recurring lockdowns have led to significant fluctuations.” 

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