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Covid-19 “an existential crisis” for aviation, ACI World claims

By Edward Robertson

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic remains “an existential crisis for airports, airlines and their commercial partners”, the Airports Council International (ACI) World has warned.

New analysis published in ACI’s Advisory Bulletin: The impact of Covid-19 on the airport business and path to recovery shows that 4.7 billion fewer customers will take to the skies in 2021, a 47.5 per cent decline on the projected baseline.

This amounts to a reduction in revenues of $94 billion, again about half of what had originally been predicted for this year.

And while vaccinations might give some cause for hope in ending the Covid-19 pandemic, ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said without a proper framework agreed to open up international borders, then any recovery could be slowed by a lack of support.

This means countries which have a significant share of international traffic are unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 at the earliest.

De Oliveira said: “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.

“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 travelling 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 safe and interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information.”

The analysis also warns that the Middle East and Europe are expected to be worse hit, with declines in revenue of 58.9 per cent and 58.1 per cent respectively against previous 2021 predictions. Even the least affected Asia-Pacific region is expected to see a decline of 40.3 per cent compared to what had been hoped for.

But despite this, the spring edition of Airside International shows just how much work is being done in preparation for when aviation resumes in any meaningful sense.

LCC Pegasus Airlines is already working on mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on operations and boosting customer confidence while runways should be spotless thanks to new technologies being developed to clean them.

Whatever the future holds, sustainability is only going to become a bigger issue for aviation and is going to become increasingly important in relation to GSE, which is why so many airport and airlines are paying increasing attention to the green credentials of the equipment involved.

Meanwhile, an interview with Alliance Ground International shows just how operations are changing in the US to meet the demands of the pandemic.

All this and more can be found in the current edition of Airside International.