Airports Council International – the global trade representative of the world’s airport authorities – has warned that it may take until the end of next year before traffic levels reach pre-coronavirus levels.

Referring to Covid-19 as “an existential threat to airport business”, ACI said that the pandemic is predicted to wipe out two-fifths of passenger traffic and almost half of revenues for airports in 2020, equating to a loss of 3.6 billion passengers and $76 billion in revenues.

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said that “A drastic decline of such magnitude for the global airport industry represents an existential threat,” adding that “A swift, effective and equitable economic policy response from governments is needed to protect millions of jobs, protect essential operations, and give the industry the greatest chance to weather the storm and recover quickly”.

“The global airport industry has faced multi-billion-dollar losses already in the first quarter of 2020, but it is now predicted that the impact of COVID-19 will extend not only to the second quarter of 2020 but also the second half of the year,” continued Gittens.

“Most experts in the air transport industry agree that recovery may take a year to 18 months to reach pre-crisis traffic levels and the industry may not record pre-COVID-19 traffic volumes again before the end of 2021.”

ACI said that it was “reasonable to foresee faster recovery in domestic passenger traffic”, but warned that “In the case of international passenger traffic, however, the recovery will take longer, as any international flight implies reciprocal permissions, while various States will emerge from the current crisis at different times with varying pace of relaxation of the recently imposed restrictions”.

The Council said that airport were taking “all possible measures to preserve financial stability”, from closing portions of infrastructure, postponing capital expenditure and addressing staffing costs.

Last week London City airport became the first major airport in the UK to temporarily close its doors to all flights, while Gatwick recently closed its North Terminal.