What comes next for aviation in 2022

Will your flight will still be cancelled next year? Not, unless the country of destination cancels it

George J
6 min readDec 12, 2021
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Being a fan of aviation for over 15 years and looking for a job in this market, I stay up to date to what’s new in this industry. In this article I’ve looked at what happened to aviation last year, where is it now and where it seems to go. Here’s how that is going to affect you.

Aviation is still recovering, with ups and downs on the way. Cancellations will happen more rarely. You may fly other routes, though. If all goes well by 2023, all should have become a past nightmare.

The decline in air passengers transported in the past two years was the largest recorded. Last time it was like this was around 1950. A million jobs disappeared. But don’t despair. It’s better than last year and the industry expects recovery in one year.

Where we’re coming from

2020 -

Where I live, I can always see planes in the sky. Not last year.

The traffic dropped the most in the Middle East region. It had a drop of 71.5%.

Europe was — 69.7% than pre pandemic levels. Africa has seen a decrease in traffic of — 68.5%. Air traffic rebounded faster for China though, says IATA.

Domestic and low-cost point-to-point flights did better than the line airlines. Repatriation and cargo flights were generating most revenue.

Because of such low demand, many crew lost their jobs and had to take on jobs in other fields.

Basically, all flights were cancelled and passengers couldn’t get their refunds for a long time.

To regain the demand, airlines pointed to their safety measures they took in place. Planes were disinfected periodically and passengers were given masks & hand sanitizer kits. They were reminded of the HEPA filters onboards and explained how air circulates.

Some airlines offered the possibility of booking an extra seat. Airlines were fighting back all odds. One feature left its mark: free seat rebooking and cancellation.

I also even remember that news articles showing hilarious seat models that could have been a possibility.

Year 2020 was a year no one in aviation wants to remember.

Where are we now

2021 -

Year 2021 opened with a higher demand than expected. That led sometimes to cancellations. Staff shortages, operational challenges, low occupancy rates and over the night government measures were some reasons your flight didn’t take off in spring.

Once the industry adjusted, things went better. Summer was busy in the sky. People travelled for leisure and to see friends and family after a year with total lockdowns. Some preferred to discover their own country and stay local. The business travelers stuck to online meetings.

Vaccination and travel restrictions still influence air travel. The good news is that in the last five to six months of the year, traffic has been pretty close to pre pandemic levels.

The current situation is that international passenger demand in October was 65.5% below October 2019. North American carriers experienced a 57.0% traffic drop. European carriers’ October international traffic declined 50.6%.

European traffic 7 day average, based on data by Eurocontrol, estimated visual representation

The COVID-19 outbreak faced in November was already pointing to a slowing down of demand for travel even before the emergence of the Omicron variant. This is causing a slightly slower recovery than forecasted. It will not keep flight numbers low for too long, though.

Flight schedules were on the rise despite Omicron. Bookings go well, an increase expected for Christmas. Recently, some airlines already announced cancellations.

The emergence of the Omicron variant forced many governments into restricting or entirely removing flights. British Airways cancelled 2000 flights and Ryanair eliminated their flights to Morrocco as the government there just banned air travel.

Will they cancel your flight for the holidays? Probably not, unless the country of destination will ban flights because of Omicron fears or outbreaks.

How we’re flying -the traffic

Industry worldwide -65%

Europe -50 %

North America -57 %

Where we will be

2022 -

Scenarios made by Eurocontrol show recovery to 2019 levels during 2023, while in the worst-case scenario, this could be 2027.

Aviation is recovering, first in the domestic sector and then international.

Summers are always a good period for airlines. Will your flight get cancelled next year? Airlines expect Omicron to lead to extra restrictions that will discourage travel. Therefore, some flights could be cancelled for Jan — March.

There are way fewer chances than past years unless there is another disruption by this new variant and outbreaks. For sure, aviation will be way more stable.

The demand for travel for leisure and to see friends and family will be the most important. Online meetings replaced business travel, and the industry doesn’t expect to see an increase here soon.

The easiness of canceling tickets is here to stay. This helps you have less uncertainty and fears. Hygiene and cleaning measures will stay for way over 2022.

The low cost long haul will become important and you will see this more, for example, JetBlue that’s flying from JFK to Gatwick, London. Both people and airlines will fly to new places than before.

One interesting thing, IATA discovered that work from home actually favorites travelling. People saved money while working from home and are now ready to take a break away from home. IATA is not concerned and sees flexible working as an opportunity for the airline industry.

Prices are sensitive to fuel and airport fees. At the beginning, to increase demand, most likely there will be competitive prices. These will increase within the next years, according to the markets and demand, with a focus on financial recovery.

volume of global air traffic by year, estimate visual representation (made with Canva)

The challenges that governments and the industry will have to work on next year

Cross-border travel restrictions remain the key driver of aviation next year as well.

The EU digital COVID certificate that is the same all over European Union helped and is helping travel. However, there is a need for standardization for testing and related documents.

30% of countries don’t recognize antigen testing. 41% don’t accept vaccinated travelers from low-risk non-EU countries and passenger locator forms are not standardized.

People are open to travel when they have clarity about required testing and documents. More certainty will play its role as well. No one likes to be stressed about flying into a mandatory 3600 pounds costly quarantine, for example.

Industry bodies also call for governments to reduce PCR testing prices. Despite they are mandatory and countries say they support air travel, VAT is still applied.


Aviation remains dynamic but more stable than last two years. Outbreaks and restrictions imposed by countries will be the key factors on how many of us will travel and how the flight web will look like.

We will see some good fares and during summer it will be as busy as ever. I would expect some operational challenges when the demand will be higher, but I feel airlines will fix that quickly.

We’ll see low cost flying long haul and definitively new routes, with affordable prices. Demand for leisure during summer will be high, people going on vacation and visiting their families, being the top travelers. We will be able to cancel easily and rebook our tickets. Masks and testing will stick around for a long time.

I also have a feeling that electrical cars for the operations at the airport and sleep pods airport hotels will become more and more present. They are the new trend.

The aircraft that are in the skies will see major developments in the coming years. Some of this will come from changes in propulsion to electric and hydrogen, total or partial. New supersonic aircraft is being worked on, very high-altitude aircraft, and even airships are a thing of the future. However, the most visible change may be the use of drones and electric air taxis.

Have a great flight!