Slow recovery predicted for aviation industry after Covid-19 restrictions end, experts warn

Varied national timelines on lifting restrictions and consumer health fears are expected to dent demand

Lingering concerns about the health risks associated with travel may put off many consumers from traveling in the short and mid-terms

Rather than spike in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions, passenger travel and tourism is likely to resume very slowly and in stages as various destinations lift restrictions at different times, according to experts.

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, some experts predicted that passenger travel would see a quick resurgence as a result of high demand after weeks of restrictions. On March 22, for example, Matthew Sliedrecht, the marketing director at online travel portal Cleartrip, said that “we may see this Eid as one of the largest travel seasons in history”.

Now, however, experts are warning that the flow of passengers is likely to begin as a trickle as a result of varied national timelines for lifting restrictions and a general sense of uncertainty about travel that will continue for some time.

“The key to international travel taking off again is what happens in each country, and the answer to that will vary from country to country and from region to region while countries and airlines figure out how to safely move people,” said Ross Veitch, the co-founder and CEO of Dubai and Singapore-based online travel marketplace Wego.

“I think there will be a lot of pent up demand and I would like to say I’m expecting a big ‘V’ shaped recovery,” he said. “But I think it will be a bit slower.”

However, Veitch said that he believes travel would likely first begin between countries that have relatively managed to contain coronavirus, as has largely been the case in the Arabian Gulf.

“For countries where the spread is relatively well contained, I think we’ll see airlines beginning to fly and move between those countries,” he said. “Fortunately, the GCC nations are doing a pretty good job of keeping the spread under control so far. Some of those travel restrictions will be lifted – at least between the GCC states.”

Ongoing health fears?

Some experts, however, warn that lingering concerns about the health risks associated with travel may put off many consumers from traveling in the short and mid-terms.

“There is a concern that passengers will refrain from undertaking any travel for fear of sitting next to somebody that could or may have a potential illness,” said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst of London-based StrategicAero Research. “That’s really going to dent demand.”

“It’s unprecedented, and I don’t see that situation changing, regardless of what airlines put in place in terms of pricing,” he added. “It will be incremental growth at a slow pace and will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen, even after 9/11, and a lot of it will hinge on passenger fear.”

In the UAE, Etihad, Emirates and Flydubai have announced the resumption of limited operations, solely focused on returning expatriates to their home countries.

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