Customers in flight seats use virtual reality (VR) devices at First Airlines, that provides VR flight experiences, including 360-degree tours of cities and meals, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo, Japan, on August 12, 2020. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
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 percent in 2020, sharper than its April forecast of a 46 percent 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 percent in June from a year earlier following a plunge of 91.0 percent 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 percent, 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 percent, according to the IATA, which represents some 290 airlines or 82 percent of global air traffic.
Read also: 2019 was a very safe year to fly: IATA
Japan's two biggest airlines reported dismal earnings in their latest quarterly earnings.
Japan Airlines Co. 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 Inc., the parent company of All Nippon Airways Co., 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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