Outlook Positive For Airlines As Vaccinations Set To Drive Growth: Moody’s


International operations of US airlines will remain significantly curtailed through the summer

Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday revised its outlook for the global airlines industry to positive from negative, reflecting that industry fundamentals will materially improve over the next 12 to 18 months. This is despite the current record high daily infection rate in India, travel restrictions in countries with large amounts of traffic to and from India, and ongoing lockdowns in other countries.

“While the continuing pandemic means there is a risk of further disruption to air travel in various countries at various times, we expect increasing vaccinations will lower border restrictions and increase demand for air travel over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Moody’s Senior Vice President Jonathan Root.

“Leisure traffic will lead the charge to boarding gates while corporate trips and international long-haul will follow, initially at a slower pace. The restoration of the ability to travel will relieve the tremendous pent up demand to fly to visit friends and relatives and for vacations,” added Root. With offices in many countries opening by fall 2021, this will facilitate the beginning of the corporate travel recovery.

The strong recovery in US domestic travel demand that began in March highlights benefits of the combination of vaccinations and a large geographic footprint for the return of domestic travel demand. As conditions in other markets improve and barriers to travel come down, Moody’s expects the current experience in US market to be repeated globally, over different time frames.

For this summer, the domestic capacity operated by each of the eight US airlines that Moody’s rates will reach at least 80 per cent of the capacity they operated in 2019. Domestic schedules of some US low-cost operators will exceed 100 per cent of 2019 levels.

International operations of US airlines will remain significantly curtailed through the summer, with green shoots starting in the fall, after European borders open this summer and infection rates in Latin America decline. A fullsome restart of trans-Pacific travel will require the end of lockdowns in Japan and removal of border restrictions across the region.

Meanwhile, Canadian airlines are still suffering some of the largest declines of carriers across the globe. High infection rates in some European countries and the more limited availability of vaccines, resulting in continued travel restrictions, have so far prevented a surge in demand in Europe similar to that seen in the US since late February.

In terms of domestic air travel, China, the US and Australia are leading the industry’s recovery. Moody’s expects the industry to sustain operating losses and negative operating margins for all of 2021, although to a lesser degree than in 2020.

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