Despite strong signs of a recovery in recent months, new industry figures suggest that the severe downturn in air traffic caused by the pandemic, followed by a slow recovery, is putting up to 44.6 million aviation-supported jobs at risk.

Under normal circumstances, aviation and the tourism it facilitates supports 87.7 million jobs worldwide. Over 11 million jobs are within the sector itself, employed at airlines, airports, civil aerospace manufacturers, and air traffic management. The near total shutdown of the system for several months, as well as the stop-start nature of the reopening means that air travel may not recover to pre-COVID levels until 2024.

Acting Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group, Haldane Dodd said: “There have been signs of recovery in the aviation sector, although it has been uneven around the world. Direct aviation jobs will likely be 21% lower at the end of this year than before the start of the pandemic. This is positive when compared with the same time last year, when 43% of jobs were estimated to be at risk. But the recovery has not been felt by the international tourism sector meaning that jobs supported by aviation more broadly are only half of the pre-COVID-19 level.

“Uncertainty for travelers due to constantly changing restrictions has had a massive impact on the willingness of citizens and companies to plan journeys. Travel and tourism for leisure and business purposes do not simply provide the travelers with a nice holiday or important commercial opportunities, but support employment and economic development around the world. Asia-Pacific in particular has seen a significant drop-off in the benefits of air travel with almost 60% reduction in economic activity supported, as many markets in the region remain closed to foreign visitors. Though some governments have provided support for the industry that cannot continue forever. Through more coordinated and sensible vaccination and visitor entry requirements, destinations should be able to open up safely and regain this lost employment and income.”

Key facts outlined in Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders show the impact of the pandemic:

  • Aviation-supported jobs will potentially fall by 44.6 million to 43.8 million (-50%)
  • Hardest hit is Asia-Pacific at -58%, then Africa (-51%), the Middle East (-47%), Latin America and the Caribbean (-43%) and Europe (-40%). North America (-34%) has seen a recovery in domestic traffic to pre-COVID levels but is still affected by a lack of foreign visitors due to travel restrictions. The domestic market in China is also near pre-pandemic levels.
  • Direct aviation jobs (at airlines, airports, manufacturers, and air traffic management) will fall by 2.3 million (a 21% reduction compared with the pre-pandemic situation)

See the full impact of COVID-19 here.

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