Global demand for aviation fuel still below pre-COVID levels


Global demand for aviation fuel stood 30 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in early June and may not recover fully for two more years, according to a new study published by the International Energy Forum (IEF).

The study, the second part of the IEF’s Post-COVID Recovery Energy Monitor series, relies on data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI) and alternative metrics such as flight data, passenger throughput statistics, flight schedules and cancellations from a variety of government sources, airport statistics and publicly available information in 40 countries, representing 70 per cent of total jet fuel demand.

“Jet fuel accounts for most of the remaining oil demand shortfall caused by the pandemic, and the recovery is expected to be uneven as countries face the difficult trade-off between reviving the economy and managing the spread of COVID-19,” said Joseph McMonigle, Secretary General of the IEF.

International air travel is still operating at a fraction of its pre-COVID levels, with bookings for cross-border flights estimated at 20 per cent of pre-crisis levels at the end of April. However, domestic air travel has rebounded strongly, standing at 74 per cent of 2019 levels, and global air cargo travel is already 12 per cent up on pre-crisis levels on the back of growing goods trade and e-commerce, the study found.

“The return of international travel remains the main wildcard for oil demand as some governments are racing to ease restrictions in preparation for the summer tourist season,” said Dr Leila R. Benali, Chief Economist of the IEF. “However, uncoordinated vaccination programs and the continuous emergence of increasingly transmissible variants will temper gains.”

The first part of the IEF’s Post-COVID Recovery Energy Monitor series was released in April, and focuses on alternative metrics to estimate demand for transportation fuels, a critical sector for oil demand.

IEF researchers analyzed correlations between fuel demand data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative, mobility metrics from Google’s Community Mobility Reports as well as the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker or vaccination rates to assess the recovery in transportation fuel demand.

The report entitled, “Oil Demand Outlooks in Time of a Market Dislocation: Non-Traditional Metrics as a Bellwether for 5 million Barrels Missing from Transportation Fuels Demand” employed mobility trackers to explain the demand trajectory of transportation fuels, a critical sector for oil demand that was disproportionately hit by COVID-related restrictions.

The study covered more than 65 countries accounting for more than 80 per cent of global demand.

The IEF is monitoring the recovery in oil demand after the pandemic as part of its mandate to promote stability in global energy markets and enhance market transparency.

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