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  • Recovery from the pandemic for the U.S. airline industry is expected to be slower, with the added risk of a COVID-19 second wave in Q4 2020
  • A widely-available vaccine will ultimately be the trigger to return traffic to pre-pandemic levels, however it is not expected until Q1 2021
  • Accelerating traffic return is dependent upon recovery in both passenger confidence and economic growth, however both prospects are challenged without a vaccine.

Small solace can be found in an undeniable mathematical fact that the commercial aviation business can’t get much worse. An estimated 5% of U.S. domestic travelers boarding aircraft in April 2020 versus the same month a year ago. Regardless of whether the effect of the virus has peaked, traffic has found its trough.

Related: The airplanes that have survived the aviation apocalypse

It is from this dismal starting point that we turn our focus to potential recovery scenarios, and how they may play out over the next 12 months. Instead of the rate of transmission dictating the speed of collapse in air capacity, the recovery will be subject to very different variables. The question shifts, now, from how bad can it get? to how long will it last? and what happens if it comes back?

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Courtney Miller is Managing Director of Analysis for The Air Current. Miller most recently spent 10-years with Bombardier Aerospace, serving as director, North America sales for the company’s commercial aircraft line and led airline marketing and analysis for the western hemisphere for airlines in North and South America and the community of global aircraft lessors. Miller is also founder of, where he merged industry history and analysis with insightful and beautiful data visualization to illustrate contemporary trends. Miller is a 3,000-hour U.S. airline pilot and began his career flying for U.S. regional airline Comair. He holds a Masters of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle University and a Bachelors of Science in Aviation Technology from Purdue University. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Metroplex.

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