Airline association Iata has warned recovery in demand for air travel will be slow and called on governments to work with the industry on confidence-boosting measures.

An Iata-commissioned survey found 60% of recent travellers anticipate a return to travel within two months of Covid-19 being contained but 40% would wait six months or more before flying.

More than two-thirds (69%) said they could delay a return to travel until their personal finances stabilise.

Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac warned: “Passenger confidence will suffer a double whammy even after the pandemic is contained – hit by personal economic concerns in the face of a recession on top of lingering concerns about the safety of travel.”

He said: “Governments and industry must be quick and coordinated with confidence-boosting measures.”

Iata noted early indications of “cautious return-to-travel behaviour” in China and Australia, where coronavirus infection rates have fallen.

In China, the association reported: “Domestic demand began to recover when the rate of new Covid-19 infections in China fell into single digits.

“[But] while there was an early upswing from mid-February into the first week of March, the number of domestic flights plateaued at just over 40% of pre-Covid-19 levels.

“Demand is expected to be significantly weaker as load factors on these flights are reported to be low.”

In Australia, Iata reported: “Domestic demand continued to deteriorate even after the rate of new infections fell into single digits. There is still no sign of a recovery even as new infections near zero. Total domestic flights are at 10% of pre-Covid-19 levels.”

De Juniac noted: “The post-pandemic recovery is expected to be led by domestic travel, followed by regional and then intercontinental as governments progressively remove restrictions.”

He said: “In some economies, the spread of Covid-19 has slowed to the point where governments are planning to lift the most severe elements of social distancing restrictions. But an immediate rebound appears unlikely.

“People still want to travel, but they are telling us they want clarity on the economic situation and will likely wait for at least a few months after any ‘all clear’.

“Confidence boosting measures will be critical to re-start travel and stimulate economies.”

Iata is conducting a series of regional summits to begin planning for the re-start.

De Juniac said: “We must start building a framework for a global approach that will give people the confidence they need to travel.

“This will need to be shored-up by economic stimulus measures to combat the impact of a recession.”

He insisted: “This is an emergency. Airlines around the world are struggling to survive. Virgin Australia demonstrates that this risk is not theoretical. The crisis is also deepening.

“Governments will need financially viable airlines to lead the economic recovery. Many won’t be around to do that if they have run out of cash.”

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