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  • This is what the skies looked like in March

  • And this was one month later

  • When passenger numbers were a staggering...

  • ...94% lower than the previous year...

  • ...thanks to the covid-19 pandemic

  • Business is now starting to pick up

  • But travel is becoming increasingly localised and complicated

  • This world of quite easy travel and relatively free movement...

  • ...has evaporated almost overnight

  • This will have consequences far beyond cancelled holiday bookings

  • It could exacerbate existing inequalities...

  • ...create economic hardship...

  • ...and disrupt the workings of the globalised world

  • The tourism industry is enormous

  • Every year, international holiday-makers spend $1.6trn

  • That's more than Spain's GDP

  • Or at least they did, before the coronavirus pandemic

  • The CDC just told everyone...

  • ...do not travel

  • Postpone or cancel all non-essential travel

  • In April 2020 planes carried just 31m passengers around the world

  • The sort of passenger levels last seen in the late 1970s

  • In April this year, 200,000 passengers...

  • ...went through Heathrow Airport in London...

  • ...which is fewer than would go through on any single day in a normal month

  • IATA, the airline trade body...

  • ...has said flights will not return to pre-pandemic levels for several years

  • In China, flights are now just 21% below normal levels...

  • ...while in America, air traffic began to pick up in May...

  • ...but remains 57% below normal

  • And in much of Europe, flight numbers are still around 75% lower...

  • ...than the same time last year

  • And while passenger numbers are creeping up...

  • ...some areas, like business travel, may never recover

  • After the last financial crisis the number of overseas business trips...

  • ...taken per person in the UK fell by a third and never picked up

  • Whereas leisure travel did, eventually, climb back to pre-crisis levels

  • Were the same thing to happen again...

  • ...it could have a significant impact on airline profits

  • Business travellers actually subsidise leisure travellers

  • Your £250 transatlantic fare in the back of the plane...

  • ...is possible because somebody at the front of the plane...

  • ...is paying £800 or £1,500

  • Airlines are already struggling

  • Virgin Atlantic has annouced plans to cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK

  • Air Canada lost more than $1bn in the first quarter

  • In March IATA warned that without government aid...

  • ...just 30 of the world's 700 or so airlines would make it through the pandemic

  • The airlines that survive...

  • ...will determine the competition and prices on certain routes

  • Some airlines are in pretty good financial shape

  • Within Europe there remains a lot of competition

  • Transatlantic flights, there is still plenty of competition

  • But on routes where there is much thinner competition, prices will go up

  • There's no doubt about that

  • For the well-off, the price increases may be an annoyance

  • But they could also have a significant impact on global mobility

  • As lower-income travellers may find themselves priced out of the skies

  • What happens with airfares and with the prices of flights...

  • ...affects not just summer holidays

  • Migrants have parents or spouses in one country and work in another

  • And for all of these people, it is quite important that...

  • ...they continue to be able to go home

  • In June, 189 countries had imposed some form of travel restriction

  • Ranging from measures like quarantine, to border closures

  • And governments are desperate to open up travel as quickly as possible

  • The government is to make it easier for British holiday-makers...

  • ...to travel to much of Europe this summer

  • Though these arrangements may help tourists...

  • ...they could also create an increasingly inequitable system

  • The British government is working to allow Brits to go off on holiday...

  • ...to, say, Spain or France and come back without the need for quarantine

  • But that doesn't take into account the fact that...

  • ...someone may have a partner in America...

  • ...parents in Nigeria or siblings in Pakistan

  • And they won't be able to go see people who are very, very important to them

  • The risk is that we end up with a very uneven and possibly unfair system

  • The relatively free movement enjoyed by many tourists...

  • ...is a modern phenomenon...

  • ...that has played an increasingly important role in globalisation...

  • ...and domestic economies

  • Take China

  • For around 30 years until the end of the 1970s...

  • ...travel to and from China was heavily restricted

  • But today China sends more tourists abroad than any other country

  • And they spend more money

  • In 2018 Chinese tourists spent over $270bn overseas

  • Almost double that spent by Americans

  • And the limitations on travel caused by the pandemic...

  • ...could have a knock-on effect on global co-operation and economic growth

  • The worry is that these restrictions persist in the long-term...

  • ...and then become entangled in all sorts of other things...

  • ...such as reciprocity, trade negotiations...

  • ...any sort of geopolitical dispute between countries

  • And so we return to a sort of mid-20th century world...

  • ...of closed borders, lots of restrictions and paperwork...

  • ...and just less interchange between countries

  • Faced with an ever-changing array of travel restrictions...

  • ...many travellers are looking closer to home for their holidays

  • In May, 80% of total reservations on Airbnb were made domestically

  • And between January and April...

  • ...foreign searches for summer holiday accommodation in Spain...

  • ...fell by as much as 94%

  • The rise in localised travel could be good news...

  • ...for the environment

  • In 2018 carbon-dioxide emissions from commercial flights...

  • ...accounted for 2.4% of global fossil-fuel emissions

  • The answer to this quandary is not to stop people from flying

  • Rather, it's to make planes more efficient and...

  • ...to focus on innovation in the industry

  • The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards efficiency

  • So, some older planes are being taken out of the sky

  • The covid-19 pandemic will dramatically affect...

  • ...the way in which people move around the world

  • But rather than driving economic growth...

  • ...as the travel industry has in the past...

  • ...new restrictions could affect globalisation...

  • ...sowing division and increasing inequality

  • My name is Leo Mirani

  • I'm a correspondent on the Britain desk at The Economist

  • And if you'd like to read more about the impact that covid-19...

  • ...is having on international travel, click the link opposite

This is what the skies looked like in March

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Covid-19: why travel will never be the same | The Economist

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    李柏毅 posted on 2020/07/13
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