THE INTERNATIONAL Air Transport Association (IATA) in its annual meeting held on October 5, 2021 expressed optimism that travel demand will increase. The potential for air travel is now huge, but it is hampered by government regulations, restrictions imposed by the government.

According to IATA Director General Willie Walsh said in view of the current pent-up potential demand, the association of 290 airlines expects international travel to double next year compared to the depression levels seen during the pandemic and reach 44% of the position in 2019.

“While domestic travel is estimated to be 93% of its pre-pandemic position. People want to fly. We have seen solid evidence of that. They can’t fly because we have restrictions that hinder international travel,” said Willie Walsh.

The Trade Group of dozens of state-owned airlines blamed entry rules and testing requirements in the top 50 air travel markets.

Even some of the leaders of airlines and leasing companies trying to attend IATA’s annual meeting in Boston were unable to travel or had to spend extra time in quarantine. Airlines are calling for restrictions on vaccinated travelers and public health protocols at the border to end.

Meanwhile Emirates President Tim Clark said Emirates Dubai was one of the most bullish airlines on the prospects for a recovery after the restrictions ended. Orders in reopened markets such as the UK and the US have gone up exponentially. That reflects the wave of demand that we see everywhere. The demand for air travel will recover on its own.

The global carrier has the backing of President Biden’s administration, which plans to reopen the United States in November to travelers from 33 countries.

But the airlines left the Boston meeting when they arrived, with very tense balance sheets, and Clark said most will remain risk-averse and focused on cash returns for 2-3 years.

IATA warns serious challenges remain for carriers, while venting frustration at airports and other suppliers for not doing enough to share the pain caused by the crisis.

“While the White House has not set a date to lift travel restrictions for Europeans, JetBlue expects it to be ahead of the US Thanksgiving holiday next month. If the reopening is delayed, we will face industry-wide consequences,” said Chief Executive Robin Hayes

Likewise, United Airlines Chief Executive Scott Kirby said bookings for trans-Atlantic flights last week were higher than in the same period in 2019.

The world’s largest leasing company, AerCap (AER.N), said the successful reopening of the world’s most important remote market will set a trend for other markets to follow. [sources/photo special]