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News Article

Travel Restrictions Complicate Aviation’s Recovery

By Alicia Arizpe | Thu, 01/14/2021 - 14:17

Almost a year into the COVID-19 crisis, the aviation industry continues dealing with low demand, a trend that is expected to continue well into the year. Under these circumstances, industry bodies warn that new travel restrictions will only further delay the recovery of the troubled sector.

The aviation industry is battling its worst crisis in history. The sector entered almost a complete standstill in April 2020, when demand for air travel shrank by 95 percent in comparison to the previous year as numerous countries closed their borders and urged the population to shelter in place. From that low point, the industry has seen a gradual recovery as governments relaxed containment policies. However, industry bodies highlighted that the sector was still way behind its previous levels. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that the global aviation industry ended 2020 US$118 billion in the red, as demand had been 61 percent smaller than the previous year.

Moreover, the association reports that the recovery of air travel came to a halt in November 2020. IATA indicates that demand in November shrank by 70.3 percent, with demand for international travel contracting by 88.3 percent. All regions saw a contraction, with Latin America falling by 59.8 percent in revenue passenger kilometers (RPK). A significant factor behind the slowdown were the traveling restrictions that arose after COVID-19 cases climbed back up. “The already tepid recovery in air travel demand came to a full stop in November. That was because governments responded to new outbreaks with even more severe travel restrictions and quarantine measures,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA.

Under these circumstances, further travel restrictions are a growing concern for industry associations. In a call to governments in Latin America, IATA, the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), Airports Council International Latin America and the Caribbean (ACI-LAC) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) warned that limiting air connectivity will hurt the industry and put jobs at risk.

While Mexico has not restricted national or international travel during the past year, local airlines have been affected by the contraction in demand for international travel. Aeroméxico, for instance, reports that international passengers had fallen by 70.1 percent during 2020. Mexico’s ultra-low-cost airline Volaris also saw a 41.7 percent contraction in international passengers during the year.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer