Airbus boss says it could be 2025 before travel numbers recover

By Ellie Donnelly Twitter Email

International air traffic will not return to pre-pandemic levels for at least two more years, according to Claude Debeauquenne, head of single-aisle market development at plane maker Airbus.

Domestic air travel markets around the world are back to 86pc of pre-Covid levels, while international travel is back to 42pc of what it was before the pandemic, according to the French aviation group.

Demand is particularly strong in the United States and China.

“The leader in terms of recovery is domestic travel and that is going nicely. Our predictions – and they are the same as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts – are we see a recovery corridor any time between 2023 and 2025, that includes the whole world-wide traffic,” Mr Debeauquenne said.

In terms of international traffic, the industry is “very much dependent today on all the local regulations, so quarantine measures, specific requirements for entry, that is something which is in the hands of governments. That is the reason you see international traffic really lagging behind,” he added.

With regards to how governments have handled the re-opening of international travel, Mr Debeauquenne said there is “no good or bad examples”.

“It is a unique and unprecedented crisis that we are facing today, it is something everyone is trying to manage the best we can. We are encouraging governments, through the voice of IATA, to go into something which will be unified: vaccination passports, that can enable people to travel again without any restrictions, I think this is probably the way forward… at the end of the day it depends on local regulations.”

With climate change quickly becoming a bigger issue, Mr Debeauquenne said people still intend to travel.

“I think we have built – as an industry – an ecosystem where we facilitate exchanges of people. I think it’s going to be very hard for you to think that you are going to stop being able to go to the US unless you take alternative ways of doing so,” he said.

“It is a question of us leading the change, it is something we take very seriously. We have made an announcement [in September 2020] of transitioning towards a ZeroE programme, which essentially is a concept aircraft, something which will enter [the market] by 2035, hydrogen powered, so no emissions. That is just an illustration of the ambition of Airbus in terms of taking the climate change challenges and moving towards something which is zero emission,” Mr Debeauquenne added.

“In the meantime you have to use the latest generation [technology] that provides that step-changing efficiency in fuel burn and that is the A220 [aircraft],” he said.

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