Global airports organisation, Airports Council International (ACI) World, has forecast international air traffic may not recover until 2025 and warned Europe will remain the region worst-affected by the Covid-19 downturn.

ACI World predicts almost five billion fewer air passengers will fly this year than previously forecast, a reduction of almost half worldwide.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World director general, said: “We see positive indications in countries with high rates of vaccination and a surge in travel in the second half of 2021 is expected.”

But he added: “Covid-19 remains an existential crisis for airports, airlines and their commercial partners and we need support and sensible policy decisions from governments.”

ACI World forecast Europe will remain the most-affected region by loss of air passenger revenue, with takings more than $37.5 billion down in 2021 compared with 2019.

However, the Middle East is likely to see the biggest loss of traffic, down almost 59% on 2019, against 58% in Europe and just over 40% in the Asia-Pacific region.

ACI World forecast markets with significant domestic traffic will recover to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2023, but those with significant international traffic “are unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 or even 2025”.

De Oliveira said: “We hope the number of people traveling outside of their countries will start this spring and significantly increase by mid-year.

“However, aviation recovery will not take off without a coordinated and globally-consistent approach to vaccination and testing, coupled with safe and interoperable methods of sharing testing and vaccination information.”

ACI World said “an interoperable health data trust framework must be established to facilitate safe border reopening and cross-border travel to support this recovery”.

The organisation published its analysis today in a bulletin entitled The impact of Covid-19 on the airport business and path to recovery.

It estimates the world’s airports will handle 4.7 billion fewer passengers than previously forecast in 2021, representing a loss of more than $94 billion in revenue.