The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has downgraded its traffic forecast for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery.
The trade body pointed to a dismal end to the summer travel season in the northern hemisphere as a particular concern.
IATA now expects full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66 per cent compared to 2019.
The previous estimate was for a 63 per cent decline.
August passenger demand continued to be hugely depressed against normal levels, with revenue passenger kilometres down 75 per cent compared to August last year.
This was only slightly improved compared to the 80 per cent annual contraction in July.
Domestic markets continued to outperform international markets in terms of recovery, although most remained substantially down on a year ago.
August capacity (available seat kilometres) was down 64 per cent compared to a year ago, and load factor plunged 27 points to an all-time low for August of 59 per cent.
Based on flight data, the recovery in air passenger services was brought to a halt in mid-August by a return of government restrictions in the face of new Covid-19 outbreaks in a number of key markets.
Forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter show that the recovery since the April low point will continue to falter.
“August’s disastrous traffic performance puts a cap on the industry’s worst-ever summer season,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA chief executive.
“International demand recovery is virtually non-existent and domestic markets in Australia and Japan actually regressed in the face of new outbreaks and travel restrictions.
“A few months ago, we thought that a full-year fall in demand of 63 per cent compared to 2019 was as bad as it could get.
“With the dismal peak summer travel period behind us, we have revised our expectations downward to 66 per cent.”