Will Pent-Up Travel Demand Override Long-Term Airline Traffic Drop?

crowded airport terminal
Credit: Baona/Getty Images

Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice.

Do you think the needs of businesses and the desire of people to travel again for vacations and holidays will override any perceived long-term drop in airline passenger traffic?

Aviation Week Executive Editor, Commercial Aviation Jens Flottau responds: 

The general consensus among airlines and aircraft manufacturers is that a recovery will take several years, with traffic not returning to 2019 levels until 2023. And that recovery will come in different phases.

Short-haul domestic travel and intra-European/regional flying will resume first, subject to the lifting of travel restrictions. The resumption of long-haul overseas flying will take longer.

Vacation travel is likely to come back more quickly than business travel, as many businesses are hurting financially and cannot afford to send their employees on costly trips. Another hurdle to a recovery in business travel is videoconferencing, which has become much more commonplace during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.