In a world gripped by partial (or full) lockdowns, the map below provides real-time data on the current state of air travel restrictions. It shows that 92 countries are currently partially open, 72 countries have no travel restrictions (having a list of these will come in handy during the next crisis), 50 countries are completely closed and 6 are reopening soon.
A quick look at North America reveals finds that the US, Canada, and Mexico extended their shared border restrictions through 21
December. This is the eighth extension since the restriction was first imposed on 18 March. “Essential” cross border workers, immediate family members continue to be excluded from the restrictions. Additionally, on 8 October, the Canadian government announced it would allow extended family members cross border privileges for those in an exclusive dating relationship for over a year and “have spent time in the physical presence of that person at some point during the relationship.”
Meanwhile, as a result of the ongoing partial or full lockdowns, air travel remains sharply lower than 2019. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), checkpoint traveler throughput numbers over the last week were 56% (on average) below what they were in 2019, which nonetheless is an improvement off early and mid-April lows, which were 96% below what they were in 2019 according to BofA. That said the holiday uptick does not line up neatly with holiday travel in 2019 when Thanksgiving fell later in the month.
Chart 1 below shows raw number data for TSA checkpoint traveler throughput, Chart 2 depicts the year over year change in traveler throughput 2020 vs 2019.
Unfortunately, there is no quick recovery in sight: on 9/29, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revised its 2020 forecast to a 66% Y/Y declined in air traffic demand as measured by revenue passenger kilometers (RPK). Previously IATA forecasted a 63% Y/Y decline. The forecast was updated to reflect a weaker outlook following 2020’s “dismal end to the summer travel season.”
On 7/28, IATA said the pandemic is expected to delay the recovery of air traffic demand to pre-COVID-19 levels till 2024, as measured by revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) (vs. previous forecasted recovery in late 2022/ early 2023). At the time, IATA also revised its forecast to reflect a 63% Y/Y decline in air traffic demand (RPK) in 2020, and a 75% recovery in 2021 (still 36% below 2019 levels). Prior to that, IATA had estimated the pandemic’s impact in 2020 would be a 55% Y/Y decline with a 55% recovery in 2021(but still remaining 29% below 2019 levels).