The global airport industry will see a reduction of more than six billion passengers by the end of this year compared with the pre-Covid-19 forecast for 2020, marking a decline of -64.2% in global passenger traffic, according to the latest report by Airports Council International (ACI) World.

The report, titled ‘The Advisory Bulletin, The impact of COVID-19 on the airport business’, added that with declines above -70% compared to the projected baseline, Europe and the Middle East are predicted to be the two most impacted regions.

Asia-Pacific, on the other hand, is recovering faster than other regions and is forecast to close the year with a decline of -59.2%, driven by large domestic markets such as China.

Asia-Pacific is the only region with a decline of less than -60%.

While the airport industry was expected to generate approximately $172bn this year, the Covid-19 crisis impacted the revenues, leading to a reduction of $111.8bn or -65% compared with the pre-Covid-19 forecast.

ACI World has also built scenarios exploring the potential recovery trajectory.

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As per the baseline scenario, domestic passenger traffic is only expected to recover to 2019 levels by 2023 while international passenger traffic is expected to improve only after 2024.

ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “The pandemic has resulted in a full-scale transportation crisis with the aviation brought to a virtual halt in April following lockdowns imposed in many countries in the second half of March.

“We are now seeing some positive signs and prospects are slightly better for recovery, but there is still a long way to go. One thing is certain, the world will be different after this pandemic. Recent announcements of successful vaccine trials are offering hope for a sustained recovery, but vaccination campaigns will take time and the industry needs government assistance and policy support now to lay a solid foundation for recovery.

“A consistent approach to testing should be implemented now to promote travel and do away with restrictive quarantine measures with a coordinated and risk-based approach to combining testing and vaccination introduced going forward. Tests and vaccines together will play a key role on the industry recovery, providing passengers with a safe travel environment and foster confidence in air travel.”

According to ACI World, global passenger traffic may take up to two decades to return to earlier projected traffic levels.