In grim news for anyone with wanderlusting ambitions, the world’s leading travel body has pushed its previous prediction on the return of pre-COVID international travel out by a year, and is now asserting that international travel may not fully return to “normal” levels until 2024.

The International Air Transport Association had previously asserted that international air travel would likely not return to pre-COVID levels until 2023. That timeframe has now had an extra 12 months tacked onto it.

The IATA stated that ongoing uncertainty surrounding the reopening of borders is the main factor behind increased uncertainty for the sector, leading to the new extended predictions.

The pisspoor handling of the pandemic in the United States, as well as increasing outbreaks in developing countries, are also contributing factors that is slowing the predicted return of international air travel.

In a statement, IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac detailed the reasoning behind the extended timeline, stating “Passenger traffic hit bottom in April, but the strength of the upturn has been very weak. What improvement we have seen has been domestic flying. International markets remain largely closed. Consumer confidence is depressed and not helped by the UK’s weekend decision to impose a blanket quarantine on all travellers returning from Spain. And in many parts of the world infections are still rising. All of this points to a longer recovery period and more pain for the industry and the global economy.”

“Domestic traffic improvements notwithstanding, international traffic, which in normal times accounts for close to two-thirds of global air travel, remains virtually non-existent,” de Juniac asserted.

The new data from the IATA shows that Australia’s own domestic air travel sector is one of the worst-hit domestic markets in the world, and is undergoing one of the slowest recoveries. Revenue per passenger per kilometre has dropped 94% on July 2019 levels, marking the largest drop of any large country in the world.

All this is ah… not good, as far as the tourism industry is concerned. To say the very least.

Image: Getty Images / Brendon Thorne