Alexander de Juniac, the Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, has no doubt that air traffic will pick up again before the end of the year. The question of when and how quickly it will resume remains a matter of some concern.

The light at the end of the tunnel is still far away when it comes to international air transport. Presenting the results of January in an official briefing, IATA’s Chief Economist Brian Pearce gave a mixed review of air transport’s latest evolution: in January, air cargo was growing again and for the first time reached levels last seen before the pandemic started.

Passenger traffic lagged, however. At -72% compared to January 2019, the performance was worse than the -69% of December.

For IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac, “The growth in cargo is a very good indicator as it is a vital lifeline of cash for many airlines. If air cargo was not doing as well, the industry as a whole would be in even deeper trouble”.

The continuous low demand by passengers is of deep concern for the association. IATA predicts two more difficult months in February and March, but de Juniac wants to remain optimistic: “The vaccine roll-out and the increase in testing capacity—particularly as governments show renewed interest in rapid antigen tests—is good news. But until governments ease travel restrictions, a significant improvement is unlikely.”

Another element giving way to cautious optimism is that “Consumers’ appetite to fly is still there. However, it is governments, with the relaxation of rules, which will dictate the pace of recovery”, Juniac adds.

A major helper would be the implementation of IATA Travel Pass. The digital application would help passengers and airlines managing travellers’ health credentials. Standardized homogenous common criteria to check if passengers are in conformity with requireed tests and then vaccine. IATA does not however support vaccination as a requisite for travel. “It is governments, not airlines, that will decide what travellers need to enter their country”, tells Juniac.

Meanwhile, IATA Travel Pass would give passengers and governments greater confidence and deliver the greatest efficiency to accommodate the return of air travel.

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