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Air traffic flies past 2019 levels, but Covid turbulence fears linger

Demand for global leisure and business flights has reached pre-pandemic levels. Such demand has not been witnessed since 2019.

May 20, 2022 / 09:54 AM IST
Representative image (Source: ShutterStock)

Representative image (Source: ShutterStock)

The demand for global leisure as well as business flights are on the rise, thanks to the ebbing crisis of the Covid pandemic and various other factors, according to a study.

The report by Mastercard Economics Institute, Travel 2022: Trends & Transitions, found that cross-border travel has reached the pre-pandemic levels as of March 2022. This is a positive development for the industry since air travel has been dominated by domestic flights since the pandemic began in 2020.

Mastercard Economics Institute chief economist for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, David Mann predicted that a  “major recovery” is underway.

Short-haul and long-haul cross-border leisure travel both seem to have reached the pre-pandemic levels. In April, the number of short and medium-haul flights climbed 25 percent over that of April 2019. An unusually high demand in international flight bookings made the total number of long-haul flights in 2022 almost reach the pre-Covid levels. 

“It is just pure evidence of how strong the pent-up demand has actually been,” Mann said on the surge in flight bookings.

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It is not just the wanderlust for travel enthusiasts, business flyers too are taking to the skies. Business flight bookings in March this year exceeded the number of 2019, according to the report,

Even as there’s an upward trend in flight bookings globally, a return to air travel has been sluggish in Asia. “Despite a delayed recovery compared to the West,” Mann said, “Travelers in Asia Pacific have demonstrated a strong desire to return to travel where there have been liberalisations.”

If flight bookings continue at their current pace, an estimated 1.5 billion more global passengers will fly this year than in 2021, the report from the Economics Institute estimated.

Despite what seem to be positive projections, there are risks surrounding the air travel industry’s recovery. “Among the numerous risks that could derail travel recovery... we would put Covid as the biggest swing factor,” said Mann.
Moneycontrol News
first published: May 20, 2022 09:54 am
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