The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for European governments to work together to lift border restrictions and find alternatives to quarantine measures in a bid to avoid further economic damage.

IATA has released its latest update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air passenger numbers, employment and economies across the continent. The Association has urged governments to take a coordinated approach to lifting border restrictions and to explore alternatives to quarantine measures to avoid further economic damage.

Flights within European countries have increased in recent months which has been supported by the reopening of borders between countries within the Schengen area and non-Schengen EU states. Capacity is still more than 50 per cent below the same period in 2019.

Passenger numbers forecast to fall by 60 per cent

Passenger numbers are currently forecast to fall by around 60 per cent in 2020, which represents about 705 million passenger journeys. The near-term outlook for recovery in Europe remains highly uncertain with respect to a potential second wave of the pandemic and its impact on the broader global economic impact. Passenger demand in Europe is expected to recover gradually and is not likely to reach 2019 levels until 2024.

With recovery sluggish, the negative impact on employment has increased. More than 7 million jobs supported by aviation (including tourism) within Europe are now at risk – an increase of 1 million on the last estimate in June.

Further decline in air travel is “desperately worrying”

Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe said: “It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity. It shows once again the terrible effect that is being felt by families across Europe as border restrictions and quarantine continue. It is vital that governments and industry work together to create a harmonized plan for reopening borders.”

Analysis of the largest European markets shows a decline across all metrics since the previous IATA estimates in mid-June. The estimates are for the full-year 2020.