Press Releases

Ongoing impact of COVID-19 weakens aviation recovery momentum

November 1, 2021

Gradual reopening of borders to vaccinated travellers brings renewed optimism

Montreal, 1 November 2021 – New Airports Council International (ACI) World data shows that the lasting adverse impact of the COVID-19 crisis is forecast to remove an additional 5.2 billion passengers by the end of this year compared to the pre-COVID-19 forecast for 2021.

Despite recent positive news of certain markets re-opening their borders, global passenger traffic in 2021 is still expected to reach only half of what it was in 2019, with total traffic for 2021 forecast to be only 4.6 billion of the 9.2 billion passengers served two years ago. Domestic passenger traffic continues to recover faster than the international market expecting to reach more than 3.1 billion passengers by the end of the year, a level corresponding to 58.5% of that achieved in 2019.

Linked to traffic reductions, ACI World estimates that the world’s airports are expected to lose more than US$111 billion in revenues this year, US$3 billion more than projected in the previous assessment of July 2021.

While the new data worsens the expected annual financial performance of the world’s airports, especially for the fourth quarter of the year, ACI still expects each quarter of 2021 to show an improvement compared to the previous one. Compared to the pre-COVID-19 forecast for 2021, the quarterly revenue shortfall is projected to improve from a 69.9% decline in the first quarter to a 47.4% decrease in the fourth quarter.

Read the latest ACI World Advisory Bulletin for a detailed global and regional breakdown of the impact of COVID-19 on air traffic and airport revenues for 2021-2022.

“The speed of the recovery continues to depend substantially on several stakeholders and the level of coordination pursued by national governments worldwide,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “While the global travel market is still mostly depressed, more and more countries are moving towards the gradual reopening of their borders to vaccinated travellers. Despite a delayed recovery as compared to earlier forecasts, this trend brings a renewed optimism that air travel could see an uptick in 2022, moving the industry closer to recovery. We hope that the imminent easing of travel restrictions in the US will pave the way for other countries to safely reopen their borders.

“ACI World continues to advocate the importance of a pragmatic and risk-based approach to managing the sustainable recovery of the aviation industry as it prepares for a return of air traffic demand. Government action to promote safe travel—including a coordinated and risk-based approach to testing and vaccination—is critical, rather than governments enforcing full-scale restrictions and blanket measures.”

New projections likewise reveal that the COVID-19 crisis is expected to remove more than 3.6 billion passengers for 2022, representing a 28.3% decrease from 2019 levels. Similarly, the impact of the pandemic is expected to reduce airport revenues next year by an additional US$78.6 billion, or by 29.3%, compared to 2019. However, it is expected that like 2021, each quarter of 2022 will see an improvement over the previous one.

ACI World will soon release the 2021 Annual World Airport Traffic Report, which provides a detailed review of 2020 operating and airport traffic trends as well as an analysis of 2021 in the world’s major aviation markets. This flagship ACI publication provides airport passenger, cargo, and aircraft traffic data; rankings; and trends for over 2,600 airports in more than 180 countries and territories worldwide.

Notes for editors

  1. Read the full Advisory Bulletin: The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business—and the path to recovery.
  2. Stay up to date with COVID-19 developments on ACI World’s dedicated news hub.
  3. 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, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2021, ACI serves 701 members, operating 1933 airports in 183 countries.

Media contacts

Adam Zampini
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1254