Press Releases

Pandemic’s dramatic impact on aviation endures but signs of recovery emerge

Safe travel requires interoperable health data-sharing framework, says ACI

Montreal, 25 March 2021 – Airports Council International (ACI) World has today published analysis that, despite some positive signs for recovery emerging, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on airport revenues will still be deeply felt in 2021.

The analysis – published today in the Advisory Bulletin: The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business and path to recovery – shows that 4.7 billion fewer passengers are forecast to travel by year end 2021 compared to the projected baseline, representing a decline of -47.5% of global passenger traffic. This reduction in travellers is estimated to equate to a loss in revenue of more than $94 billion (figures in US Dollars) by the end of 2021, cutting in half expectations compared to the projected baseline.

As prospects for a recovery in 2021 begin to emerge, ACI World estimates that different regions of the world will recover at different rates. At country level, markets having significant domestic traffic are expected to recover in 2023 to pre-COVID-19 levels while markets with a significant share of international traffic are unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 or even 2025 in some cases.

ACI World has said an interoperable health data trust framework to facilitate safe border reopening and cross-border travel must be established to support this recovery. ACI is supportive of any system which will allow testing and vaccination data to be shared consistently, effectively, and in a way that protects the personal data of those that use it.

“The world is embarking on the biggest vaccination campaign in history, and we see positive indications in countries with high rates of vaccination and ACI World has discerned an escalation of these encouraging signs and prospects for recovery with a surge in travel in the second half of 2021 expected,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

“Despite this, COVID-19 remains an existential crisis for airports, airlines and their commercial partners and we need support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can fuel the global economic recovery.

“We hope an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by vaccination and safety measures should result in the number of people traveling outside of their countries will start this spring and significantly increase by mid-year.

“Aviation recovery will not take-off, however, without a coordinated and globally-consistent approach to vaccination and testing, coupled with a safe and interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information.”

As regards economic impact, as a consequence of uncoordinated travel restrictions combined with small domestic markets, Europe is forecast to remain the most affected region in absolute terms with an estimated change in revenues of more than -$37.5 billion for the full year 2021 compared to 2019. In relative terms, the Middle East and Europe are forecast to suffer the biggest hits with decreases of -58.9% and -58.1% respectively. Asia-Pacific is the region with comparatively the least impact, it is still expected to experience a very significant decrease of -40.3% against the projected baseline.

To support recovery, ACI World recently published the second edition of its Aviation Operations during COVID-19 – Business Restart and Recovery which provides updated best practice examples and guidance for both initial restart and longer-term recovery. This followed the release of updated policy recommendations to States, the Take-Off Guidance Document, and the Manual on Cross Border Testing and Risk Management published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council Aviation Recovery Task Force.

“The priority for airports has always been to protect the health and welfare of travelers, staff, and the public and ICAO’s role in providing globally-consistent guidance will help to lay the foundation for the industry’s long term and sustained recovery,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

Notes for editors

  1. Read the full Advisory Bulletin: The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business and path to recovery.
  2. Download the second edition of the ACI Aviation Business Restart and Recovery publication.
  3. Stay up to date with COVID-19 developments on ACI World’s dedicated news hub. View all ACI Advisory Bulletins.
  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