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Air traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024: IATA

Industry body expects number of global passengers to fall 55% this year

Flight attendants sanitize their hands inside a plane at an airport in Belgium. IATA estimates that plunging demand will lead the airline industry to lose $84.3 billion in 2020.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Global air traffic will not return to levels before the coronavirus pandemic until 2024, an industry body said, a year later than its earlier projection due to a slower recovery this year.

The International Air Transportation Association now expects the number of global passengers to fall 55% in 2020, sharper than its April forecast of a 46% drop.

"The slow speed of improvement is telling us that the recovery will take a year longer than we previously expected," Alexandre de Juniac, director-general of the IATA, said at a briefing late last month.

The grimmer outlook reflects a cut in business trips by companies under financial pressure, weak consumer confidence in the face of concerns over their future employment and slow virus containment in the United States and some developing economies.

The latest expectation of a rebound to pre-pandemic levels "could slip further if we have setbacks in containing the virus or finding a vaccine," the IATA chief said.

Passenger traffic, measured in the total distance flown by passengers, tanked 86.5% in June from a year earlier following a plunge of 91.0% in May, as many countries imposed travel restrictions to curb the virus spread.

Load factor, which measures how full planes are with passengers, stood at 57.6%, an all-time low for the month.

Plunging demand will lead the airline industry to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 with revenue forecast to drop 50%, according to the IATA, which represents some 290 airlines or 82% of global air traffic.

Japan's two biggest airlines reported dismal earnings in their latest quarterly earnings.

Japan Airlines reported a net loss of 93.71 billion yen ($879 million) for the April-June quarter, its largest loss on a quarterly basis since the April-June period in fiscal 2009.

ANA Holdings, the parent company of All Nippon Airways, logged a record net loss of 108.82 billion yen in the quarter through June.

Neither carrier provided a forecast for the full year through March 2021, saying it is too early to assess the impact of the virus.

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