Post-COVID Recovery Facing Headwinds and Difficult Start to 2021


2019 seems like a lifetime ago, a time when air travel was at an all-time high and manufacturers' orderbooks were brimming with years of backlogs. The airline industry will likely not be the same post-COVID-19 for some time given the factors influencing the market. 

IATA projected traffic to return to 51% of pre-COVID-19 levels for the full year, but the latest round of travel restrictions amid a rise in COVID-19 infection rates mean traffic for at least the first half of the year will fall short of expectations in many regions. While the risk of lockdowns and travel restrictions remains in Europe, Asia, and other areas, pockets of increasing air travel demand in China and North America signal better times.  Other promising aspects include air cargo operations over the last year functioning at near-record highs and business aircraft operations/utilization are at near full recovery in most of their segments as well.  Airbus still has at least 7 years of backlog for the A320 and despite the impacts to the widebody orderbook, the orderbook is at least 5 years in the future at estimated production rates, even if no further orders are placed.

In the short term, various national government subsidy programs are supporting devasted airline businesses around the globe believing that their airlines have a future.  Analysis of airlines’ future ASKs (Available Seat Kilometers) or schedules shows airlines’ hopefulness around dramatic increases in passenger traffic before the first half of the year. In terms of active aircraft, the pandemic has put many aircraft into various states of inactivity or storage awaiting better times to come.  But the mere fact that owners of these aircraft are investing significant resources by storing their aircraft rather than disposing of them means they are poised to capitalize on passenger demand returning.

Hover around/Click on the pointers below to see the numbers from each region.