The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on international connectivity and as of the end of Oct-2020, the number of unique city-pairs was 36% lower than its level of at the beginning of this year, according to recent data from International Air Transport Association (IATA).
A year can deliver monumental change to an industry when you are enveloped by a global pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions and quarantines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will continue to restrict international activity for the foreseeable future. New COVID-19 vaccines are of course a positive development, but will not bring an end to travel restrictions across the first half of 2021 and could cause further economic and social turmoil in the already shattered travel and tourism sector.
One year further on and things could again be different. It is clear that the majority of governments have approached the coronavirus pandemic with a safety-first attitude and reacted quickly to rising infection rates with strong action that has made health the priority ahead of economic, social and human influences.
It is the latter that will ultimately define the recovery, but there is increasing optimism that enhanced testing, a deployment of vaccination programmes and rising consumer confidence will help boost economic recovery and with that deliver an important and much-needed fillip to travel sector, most notably in the aviation sector.
We are already seeing strong domestic travel, especially among the world’s largest air markets, but there is confidence that from around 2Q 2021 the changing COVID environment will initially support rising international short-haul – mainly leisure oriented, but growing pockets of business travel. There are suggestions that as much as 90% of short-haul flying could be reinstated through the 2021 northern summer. It will still be some time later though before the long-haul segment wakes, but it will follow.
This, of course, is simply a projection and it remains subject to market conditions, and as we know that remains very fluid. The industry will also wear its wounds for a while to come, many will heal – for some, unfortunately, the diagnosis may be terminal over what will be a tough northern winter with continued restrictions and depressed demand.
They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. In this new regular section CTC – Corporate Travel Community offers a graphical insight into a key industry observation or trend. In this latest edition we use OAG schedule data to explore how COVID-19 has changed international flying in a comparison of schedules in Europe for November, a month that in 2020 saw many countries across the Continent reintroducing stringent mobility restrictions to manage a second wave of COVID-19 infections.