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Press Releases
27 January 2021

Future of aviation is on the line as urgent support is needed, says ACI

Forecasts reveal potential recovery path but without assistance uncertainty persists

Montreal, 27 January 2021 – New forecasts from Airports Council International (ACI) World show the path to recovery in 2021 will be slow and uncertain and, without government policy support and assistance, the industry continues to face collapse.

ACI World’s most recent COVID-19 impact analysis revealed the global airport industry experienced a reduction of more than 6 billion passengers by the end of 2020, representing a decline of -64.2% of global passenger traffic, with a reduction in revenue of $111.8 billion.

ACI’s newly published World Airport Traffic Forecasts reveal, over the next five years, global passenger traffic worldwide is expected to grow at an annualized rate of +2.4%, affected negatively in the short term by the continuing effects of the pandemic.

Recovery is likely to be uneven across the world. While markets with significant domestic traffic are not expected to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels before 2023, markets with a significant share of international traffic will recover much more slowly.

ACI believes this slow recovery will only be possible, however, if governments introduce a consistent approach to testing to promote travel and do away with restrictive quarantine measures with a coordinated and risk-based approach to combining testing and vaccination introduced going forward.

“The prospects for recovery in the aviation industry have taken a hit following the introduction of renewed travel restrictions and lockdowns in response to new variants of the COVID-19 virus emerging,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “While ACI forecasts show there is a pathway for a long term recovery, this can only be possible if a solid foundation can be laid in the short term with government policy support and direct assistance.

“The rapid deployment of vaccines is welcomed but there will be a considerable period before they are widely available so, in the meantime, there must be a proportionate approach to vaccination before travel balanced with a risk-based approach to testing.

“A coordinated approach to testing and vaccination will ensure the health and safety of passengers, staff and the general public, promote travel, and allow us to do away with restrictive quarantine measures that are hampering the industry efforts to prepare for a sustained recovery.”

The World Airport Traffic Forecasts show Asia-Pacific and Latin America-Caribbean are predicted to experience the fastest growth, achieving five-year growth rates of +3.5% and +3.1%, respectively. Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America will see a more modest expansion, with growth ranging from +1.2% to +1.9%.

China is expected to become the largest passenger market in 2031 surpassing the US and is projected to continue to dominate passenger rankings in 2040 with just over 3.6 billion passengers, an 18.3% share of the global passenger traffic market. The US and India follow, with 2.9 and 1.3 billion passengers, respectively. Together, the three countries will handle almost 40% of global passenger traffic.

Notes for editors

  1. ACI World’s World Airport Traffic Forecasts provide insights into the future evolution of air transport demand across the world to 2040 and are presented on a global, regional and national level.
  2. Read ACI World’s most recent full Economic Impact Analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the airport industry.
  3. Stay up to date with ACI World’s COVID-19 communications through its dedicated news hub.
  4. Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, customer-centric and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2021, ACI serves 701 members, operating 1933 airports in 183 countries.

Media contacts

Anita Berthier
Director, Communications
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1254