Middle East projected to lose 140 million air travellers this year

Published: 24 October 2020 - 3 a.m.
By: Josh Corder
Passenger traffic in the Middle East is recovering at a significantly slower rate than was projected during the summer, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest forecast, which suggests 140 million fewer passengers will travel in the region this year.

Passenger numbers in the Middle East this year are forecast to reach 30 percent of 2019 levels compared to the 45 percent that was projected in July, with a full return in passenger traffic not expected until late 2024.

Africa is also recovering at a slower-than-expected rate but IATA forecast a return to full traffic on the continent by late 2023.

“The slower than anticipated return to the skies for travellers in the Middle East is more bad news for the region’s aviation industry,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s regional VP for Africa and the Middle East.

“The second wave, combined with continuing travel restrictions and quarantines, will result in passenger numbers in the region being less than a third of what we had in 2019.”

The Middle East is expected to see 60 million travellers in 2020 compared to the 203 million in 2019.

In 2021, demand in the Middle East is expected to strengthen to 45 percent of 2019 levels to reach 90 million travellers in the region.

While regional picked up across the Middle East from the low point in April as countries re-opened their borders, international travel has remained heavily constrained owing to restrictions such as quarantine rules, according to IATA.

Albakri said: “Hundreds of thousands of airline jobs are at risk if there is a systemic failure in African aviation. And this is not just in aviation but across industries that depend on efficient global connectivity.

“Much needed financial relief has been pledged, but little has materialized. The situation is critical. Governments and donor organisations need to act fast or the challenge will move from supporting an industry in severe distress to resurrection from bankruptcy.”


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