The latest forecast from Airports Council International (ACI) shows the recovery path in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East will be slow and uncertain, with a diverse demand recovery pattern.

However, over the next twenty years, the two regions will be the fastest-growing globally, according to the World Air Traffic Forecasts 2020-2040. Total passenger traffic is forecasted to grow fast at a compound growth rate of 5.2% in the Middle East and 4.7% in Asia-Pacific.

Forecasted to close 2020 with a passenger traffic decline of about 58%,Asia-Pacific airports are expected to return to the 2019 pre-COVID passenger volume of approximately 3.4 billion passengers by 2023. Forecasted to close 2020 with a passenger traffic decline of about 72%, the Middle East, which served 405 million passengers in 2019, will take until 2024 to return to pre-COVID passenger levels.  

The air freight segment will see a more positive recovery path. In 2019, Asia-Pacific and Middle East airports respectively handled 47 million and 9 million tonnes of cargo throughput. Both regions are expected to return to 2019 pre-COVID levels by 2022.  

 “This forecast is based on the assumption that an effective vaccine is distributed in 2021, and broader population vaccination is largely accomplished by early 2022.

Limited vaccine supply and slow distribution combined with a prolonged economic downturn risks postponing the recovery of the whole region to 2024,” said Stefano Baronci, Director General, ACI Asia-Pacific.   

Among the top 10 fastest-growing countries above 50 million passengers by compound growth rate from 2019 to 2040 are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran in the Middle East; and Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Philippines and China in Asia-Pacific.  

“For the aviation industry to continue providing vital services and supporting the global vaccine distribution undertakings, ACI Asia-Pacific urges the inclusion of all aviation workers and airport staff as essential workers as part of the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization recommendations and national vaccination plans,” emphasized Baronci.  

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