ICAO forecasts that the Covid-19 crisis could send the number of international air travellers falling by up to 1.2 billion by September 2020, compared to a typical year.

It also estimates that airline revenues could fall by $160-253 billion for the first nine months of this year, with international capacity down by up to two-thirds.

According to its baseline scenario, referencing originally planned capacity, passenger numbers could have risen by 64 million in the first nine months of this year, while revenues could have increased by $15 billion.

In a new report published on 21 April, ICAO says that Europe and Asia-Pacific will see the greatest hit to capacity and revenue. Over two-thirds of the predicted revenue loss will be accounted for in Asia-Pacific and Europe, it estimates.

The report also details a 19% year-on-year drop in air freight for the month of March, measured in tonnes transported, for a 22% drop in air freight revenues as the grounding of passenger aircraft worldwide led to the loss of belly capacity. Belly cargo is down 31% while all freighter capacity is up 9%.

It also estimates that so far in April global passenger capacity is down 91%.

ICAO’s estimates vary across two scenarios - one a V-shaped recovery with first signs of recovery in late May and the other a U-shaped path with a restart of air travel in the third quarter or later.

The 2003 SARS outbreak had a V-shaped impact on aviation, ICAO says. It notes, however, that the impact of Covid-19 has already surpassed that outbreak, which was largely confined to the Asia-Pacific region.

“The 6‐month recovery path of SARS might not apply to today’s situation,” the report cautions.