Air traffic during 2021 will be 52% of the 2019 level, according to the latest IATA forecast.
The figure is up slightly from IATA's most recent forecast in November that traffic for this year would be 50% of the 2019 level.
Strong recovery in domestic markets is driving the more optimistic outlook, IATA chief economist Brian Pearce said.
However, noted IATA direct general Willie Walsh, domestic air travel accounted for only approximately one-third of all air miles flown by passengers pre-Covid.
Pearce noted that international markets are rebounding rapidly once restrictions are lifted, fueling optimism within IATA. For example, bookings from the U.K. to Portugal, Gibraltar and Iceland surged from approximately 60% below 2019 levels to up 40% in the seven days after the U.K. announced on May 7 that those countries are on its Green List for international travel.
Looking further ahead, IATA projects global passenger numbers to be 88% of 2019 in 2022 and to top 2019 levels in 2023. Still, the trade group says that the pandemic will cost the industry two to three years of projected growth, an impact that will linger longer term.