The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for governments to work with the industry on confidence-boosting measures in the face of an anticipated slow recovery in demand for air travel.
An IATA-commissioned survey of recent travelers found that:
- 60% anticipate a return to travel within one to two months of containment of the COVID-19 pandemic but 40% indicate that they could wait six months or more
- 69% indicated that they could delay a return to travel until their personal financial situation stabilizes
Early indications of this cautious return-to-travel behavior are seen in the domestic markets of China and Australia, where new coronavirus infection rates have fallen to very low levels:
- China: Domestic demand began to recover when the rate of new COVID-19 infections in China fell into single digits and rapidly headed towards zero (measured by new infections as a percentage of the seven-day moving average of total COVID-19 cases). While there was an early upswing from mid-February into the first week of March, the number of domestic flights plateaued at just over 40% of pre-COVID-19 levels. Actual demand is expected to be significantly weaker as load factors on these flights are reported to be low. China accounts for some 24% of all domestic passengers.
- Australia: Domestic demand continued to deteriorate even after the rate of new infections fell into single digits which triggered an initial recovery in the Chinese domestic market. In fact, there is still no sign of a recovery (total domestic flights are at 10% of pre-COVID-19 levels) even as new infections nears zero. Australia accounts for 3% of all domestic travelers.
Domestic market behavior is a critical indicator as the post-pandemic recovery is expected to be led by domestic travel, followed by regional and then intercontinental as governments progressively remove restrictions.