Air travel will recover 43% in 2021 vs pre-pandemic

IATA estimates that travel (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPK) will recover to 43% from 2019 levels during the year.

While that’s a 26% improvement over 2020, it’s far from a recovery.

Domestic markets are also projected to improve faster than international travel.

With this, the total number of passengers is expected to reach 2,400 million in 2021.

That’s an improvement over the nearly 1.8 billion who traveled in 2020, but well below the 2019 peak of 4.5 billion.


International passenger traffic remained 86.6% below pre-crisis levels during the first two months of 2021.

From an IATA perspective, progress in vaccination in developed countries, particularly in the United States and Europe, is expected to be combined with widespread testing capacity to allow the return to some large-scale international travel in the second half. of the year, reaching 34% of the demand levels of 2019.

But 2021 and 2020 have opposite demand patterns: 2020 started strong and ended weak, while 2021 starts weak and is expected to strengthen towards the end of the year.

The result will be zero international growth when comparing the two years.

Finally, IATA projects that domestic passenger traffic will perform significantly better than international markets.

This is due to strong GDP growth (5.2%), consumer cash available accumulated during the lockdowns, pent-up demand, and the absence of national travel restrictions.

IATA estimates that domestic markets could recover to 96% of pre-crisis (2019) levels in the second half of 2021.

That would be a 48% improvement on 2020 performance.


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