The plane maker Boeing says it expects that it will take another two and a half years for global aviation to return to pre-pandemic levels.
According to Darren Hulst, its vice president of commercial marketing, “the industry recovers to 2019 levels of traffic by the end of 2023, early 2024,” with domestic flying at the forefront of any recovery.
According to Boeing’s forecast, long-haul international routes would take the longest to recover, owing in part to government restrictions.
According to Boeing, these will need to be eased in order to “recover the pent-up demand that already exists in the marketplace.”
According to the airline trade group IATA, last year’s passenger numbers fell by 60% to 1.8 billion, and the industry lost $126 billion, making it the worst year on record.
According to Boeing, the strength of the global economy is critical to recovering from the slump. According to IHS Economics data, “the global economy is actually trending back to where it would have been had the virus not actually occurred.”
The International Monetary Fund is expecting the global economy to grow 6% this year and 4.9% next year, as it recovers from the damage inflicted by the pandemic.
However, a coordinated global approach to travel restrictions is also a “tremendously important” factor in recovery, according to Mr Hulst, who added that a common understanding of travel rules allowed people to “resume business, resume visiting, and resume how they use the global transportation system [as] before the virus began.”
Across the world, governments have taken their own approaches to recognising vaccine and testing status. There are also differing requirements around quarantine periods which have made international travel a complicated affair.
However, last month the European Union introduced a vaccine passport to make it easier for people to travel across borders within the bloc.
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The aviation industry is crucial to the global economy. The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization estimates that before the pandemic it was worth 3.6% of the global economy and supported 65.5 million jobs worldwide.
The US aircraft manufacturer has raised its estimate of how many new planes the world will require over the next 20 years. It predicts that 43,610 new commercial aircraft will be required by 2040, a slight increase from the 43,110 predicted last year. They will be worth a total of $7.2 trillion.
As China prepares to overtake the United States as the world’s largest aviation market, a growing portion of these will be directed toward the Middle East and Asia.
The prediction is still lower than before the pandemic, when Boeing predicted a requirement of 44,040 over a 20-year period.
Boeing declined to comment on how ongoing concerns about its 737 MAX and 787 models might affect its share of those orders. Mr. Hulst stated that the company will continue to collaborate with regulators and other stakeholders to ensure that their aircraft meet the necessary safety standards.
“We’re working internally to ensure that our quality is of the highest possible standard, and it’s up to us to ensure that we have the right products for the market at the right time.”
Tackling climate change
The widespread decline in air travel has resulted in the storage of over 4,000 aircraft. This forced rest could extend their lifespan, slowing orders for new planes.
However, with many airlines looking to transition to more efficient aircraft that reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, Boeing claims that “80 percent or more of the fleet that existed in 2019 will be replaced over time.”
It also claims that the number of people in storage is decreasing and will continue to do so as travel restrictions are relaxed.
“I believe we will also see some of those aircraft transition as feedstock for conversion into cargo aircraft,” Mr Hulst predicts, citing the e-commerce boom that has accompanied the pandemic.
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Another significant change for the forecast period of 20 years could be how aircraft are fuelled, as the world combats climate change. Currently, air travel accounts for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Research is being done on an alternatives including biofuels, hydrogen and batteries. However the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that at most, 5.5% of aviation fuel in the EU could come from sustainable sources by 2030.
According to Mr. Hulst, the industry “We’ve seen that progress has been dramatic over the last 30 years. The progress we will see in this decade will be dramatic, but we will also need other factors, other fuels, to be a part of the solution. As we move into the medium and long term, sustainable aviation fuels become an essential component of our long-term sustainability goals.”