The aviation industry is projected to return to pre-Covid levels earlier than expected following a recovery in business and easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the world.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the sector could return to pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels sooner than the 2024 date that had earlier been issued.
IATA chief executive officer Willie Walsh told Reuters recently that the industry could reach 2019 traffic levels by next year.
Mr Walsh said the ongoing war in Ukraine, prevailing restrictions in China, high oil prices, and travel delays from staff shortages are not denting the recovery.
“I don’t think we should be distracted from the fact we are seeing a strong recovery and I think that recovery will gather momentum as we go through the rest of this year into 2023,” Mr Walsh said.
Early this month, IATA said with barriers to travel coming down in most places, they were seeing the long-expected surge in demand across different regions.
A recent data by IATA indicated that 25 of the top 50 countries for air travel, representing around 38 per cent of 2019 passenger numbers, were now open to fully vaccinated travellers without any quarantine or testing requirements.
This is an increase from 18 markets who were in the same position in mid-February in an earlier survey done by the association.
The European Union announced this week that it will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said Wednesday.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel for passengers and crews.
The agencies also recommended that airlines keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case they are needed in future, for example if a new dangerous variant emerges.
Locally, airlines including Kenya Airways are encouraging passengers to put on masks while in the aircraft. However, the government has relaxed the requirement to use them in open spaces. IATA data for March 2022 showed strong growth in passenger traffic compared to 2021, with Europe leading the recovery.
In March 2022, traffic measured in revenue passenger kilometres rose 76 percent compared to March 2021, which was a decline compared with 41.3 percent in March 2019, but an improvement on the 45.5 decline recorded in February.