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Global air passenger traffic is expected to recover to 88% of pre-covid levels or traffic seen in 2019 before the pandemic during 2022, and is expected to surpass this level during 2023, airline association The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

During 2021 global passenger numbers are expected to recover to 52% of pre-COVID-19 levels (2019), IATA said.

According to data from the United Nations-backed International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) the total number of passengers carried on scheduled services rose to 4.5 billion in 2019, up 3.6% from the previous year.

Meanwhile, IATA, which has over 290 member airlines globally including Indian airlines like IndiGo, Air India, Vistara and SpiceJet, expects global passenger numbers to grow to 5.6 billion by 2030.

"Beyond 2030 air travel is expected to slow, due to weaker demographics and a baseline assumption of limited market liberalisation, giving average annual growth between 2019 and 2039 of 3.2%. IATA’s pre-COVID-19 growth forecast for this period was 3.8%," it said.

The recovery in air passenger traffic remains slightly stronger than the recovery in demand measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), which is expected to grow by an annual average of 3% between 2019 and 2039, IATA said in the statement adding that this is due to the strength of domestic markets like China which have large passenger numbers.

“ We are in the deepest and gravest crisis in our history. But the rapidly growing vaccinated population and advancements in testing will return the freedom to fly in the months ahead. And when that happens, people are going to want to travel," said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

"The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination/testing certificates. At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation’s long-term growth prospects are supported with an unwavering commitment to sustainability. Both challenges require governments and industry to work in partnership," he added.

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