‘People hungry to be free again’: Personal travel will return from second half of 2021, IATA says

Air passenger traffic will remain relatively low this year compared with 2019’s pre-Covid levels, but it will be better than in mid-2020, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) director Alexandre de Juniac.

He said in an interview with the Straits Times that personal and leisure travel will return from the second half of 2021, as borders reopen to tourists hungry to be free again and reunite with families and friends. 

“We will likely start seeing a change in the air travel landscape after May or June this year,” he said. “We at IATA are already working with states to design and plan protocols and road maps for the reopening of borders.”

According to de Juniac, the recovery in business travel will be slower. “Personal travel will definitely bounce back, but business travel will take another 12 to 18 months to recover,” he said.

There is a huge pent-up demand for air travel, he added. “You never appreciate what you had until you lose it. People are hungry to be free again, to travel again.”

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The head of IATA, however, noted that “Governments in many countries are cautious and remain in emergency mode amid the emergence of new Covid variants. They have to manage their domestic circumstances first.”

IATA is targeting to work with 33 states and territories around the world on border reopening and international flights.

De Juniac expects that geographically, Asia-Pacific will emerge as the most robust region for global air traffic. “We already saw this upswing prior to Covid, and the Chinese market was already No. 1, and ahead of the US. This trend will simply accelerate.”

READ MORE: Sharpest decline in aviation history: Passenger traffic plunged 66% last year due to pandemic, IATA says

But the growth could be uneven, he said, adding: “The key will be how individual states and territories open up their borders as the vaccine roll-out and test regime accelerate.”

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