Overseas Travel Expected to Return to Normal by 2023, Expert Says

May 14, 2020 Updated: May 14, 2020

International travel is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023 with domestic travel leading the recovery, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on May 14.

However, quarantine measures on arrival—such as the two-week quarantine requirement—would “further damage confidence” in air travel, the airline industry’s peak body has also warned.

IATA’s Director-general Alexandre de Juniac told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday that the 2023 recovery date prediction “shows the importance and the severity of this crisis on air transport.”

De Juniac said that reopening domestic markets would be the first step, followed by near-by international markets, such as Asia-Pacific, or Europe, or North America.

He added that by the end of 2020, air traffic should be between 50 to 55 percent of 2019 levels.

Despite efforts by governments to curb the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, through quarantine measures, the IATA said that many travellers would not travel if 14-day quarantine measures were in place.

Currently, countries that have enforced the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for international arrivals include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK. Many countries worldwide have adopted full lockdowns, shutting down airports, and full border closures.

“In a recent survey that we did in 11 markets, 84 percent of travellers said that quarantine measures was one of their top concerns, and 69 percent essentially said that they would not return to travel under such conditions,” de Juniac said.

“We need a solution for safe travel that addresses two challenges.

“It must give passengers confidence to travel safely and without undue hassle, and it must give governments confidence that they are protected from importing the virus.

“To protect aviation’s ability to be a catalyst for the economic recovery, we must not make that prognosis worse by making travel impracticable with quarantine measures,” he said.

The IATA has proposed “a layering of temporary non-quarantine measures” such as temperature checks, health declarations, and rigorous contact tracing until a vaccine, immunity passports, or instant COVID-19 testing is available.

De Juniac added that the airline industry faced a loss of $496 billion in revenue this year.

For instance, in Australia, travel restrictions have caused major airlines, such as Qantas, to stand down around 20,000 staff as 90 percent of flights were cancelled. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia airlines entered voluntary administration.

“There is a risk that some airlines would go to bankruptcy,” he said.

“We are relying on the support packages and the rescue plans that have been put together by governments and that have been announced by governments, with, I have to say, very supportive and open attitudes to help us. But without this plan, half of the airlines could be bankrupt in June, and 80 percent could be bankrupt in July.”