A leading aerospace analyst is predicting that airline passenger traffic will return to 2019 levels by the end of 2022 – one to two years sooner than predicted by others.

Teal Group’s Richard Aboulafia believes a 2022 recovery is possible thanks to the efficacy of vaccines, the relative health of economies and high rates of personal savings.

“Teal Group’s position now is that we get back to a 2019 traffic peak by late 2022,” Aboulafia says during PNAA Advance, a virtual event hosted by the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance. “I’m an optimist.”

November 2020

Source: Shutterstock

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max

Industry group IATA has forecast that passenger air travel demand will not return to 2019 levels until 2024. Other analysts have suggested recovery might come in 2024, perhaps 2023.

Such estimates – particularly the 2024 prediction – seemed plausible during the dark days in April and May 2020, when vaccines seemed little more than a dream, Aboulafia says.

But several factors should enable a faster rebound.

Those include the remarkable effectiveness of vaccines – several of which have efficacy rates greater than 90% - being distributed globally, Aboulafia says.

“It’s far better than expected,” he says.

Also, thanks partly to a huge influx of government cash, economies have remained relatively resilient and stock markets have boomed. Additionally, amid government aid and a decline in spending, personal savings rates, at least among Americans, are spiking.

“There is all this buying power among consumers,” Aboulafia says. “They’ve got the cash… They are really eager to fly again.”