The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that air passenger traffic in the Middle East region will drop by 56% this year and will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
The region is recovering slower than the global average, according to IATA, which expects 113 million fewer passengers to travel by plane in the Middle East in 2020. Airlines in the region are forecast to lose $4.8 billion over the year.
“We [Middle Eastern] are still struggling and recovery is quite slow in our region, compared to the global average,” said Muhammad Albakri, regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East at IATA.
While travel restrictions are easing globally and in the Middle East, the recovery is turning out to be slower than IATA initially predicted.
IATA forecasts passenger numbers in the Middle East will increase by 1.6% per year until 2025, which is lower than the 2.8% global average.
Albakri said airlines have “depleted all their cash reserves” and that governments must introduce protective measures to stop carriers from failing.
The association has called on governments in the Middle East to introduce a range of measures to ensure a smoother recover, including harmonising biosafety measures and lifting quarantine rules.
It said that the “inconsistent application of biosafety measures along with unnecessary border constraints are deterring passengers and suppressing the resumption of air travel in the Middle East”.
Twenty-eight countries in the Middle East have government-imposed quarantine measures in place.
“Imposing quarantine measures on arriving passengers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown,” said Albakri.