Global air travel demand dropped 53.4% in September compared to same month in 2019: IATA

DEMAND for air travel in September 2021, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), declined 53.4% compared to the same month in 2019, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

However, this (performance) was “a moderate rebound” from August 2021’s performance, which was 56% below August 2019 levels, added the trade association when releasing the statistics.

“This was driven by recovery in domestic markets, in particular China, where some travel curbs were lifted following the Covid-19 outbreaks in August. International demand, meanwhile, slipped slightly compared to the previous month.”

While September performance was a positive development, recovery in international traffic, however, remains stalled amid continuing border closures and quarantine mandates, said IATA director general Willie Walsh in a statement.

“The recent US policy change to reopen travel from 33 markets for fully vaccinated foreigners from 8 November is a welcome, if long overdue, development. Along with recent re-openings in other key markets like Australia, Argentina, Thailand, and Singapore this should give a boost to the large-scale restoration of the freedom to travel,” he added.

International passenger markets

European carriers: September’s international traffic declined 56.9% versus September
2019, down 1 percentage point compared to the 55.9% decrease in August versus
the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 46.3% and load factor fell 17.2
percentage points to 69.6%.

Asia-Pacific airlines: Saw their September international traffic fall 93.2% compared to
September 2019, virtually unchanged from the 93.4% drop registered in August
2021 versus August 2019 as the region continues to have the strictest border
control measures. Capacity dropped 85.2% and the load factor was down 42.3
percentage points to 36.2%, easily the lowest among regions.

Middle Eastern airlines: Had a 67.1% demand drop in September compared to September 2019,
slightly improved over the 68.9% decrease in August, versus the same month in
2019. Capacity declined 52.6%, and load factor slipped 23.1 percentage points
to 52.2%.

North American carriers:  Experienced a 61% traffic
drop in September versus the 2019 period, somewhat worsened over the 59.3%
decline in August compared to August 2019. Capacity dropped 47.6%, and load
factor fell 21.3 percentage points to 61.9%.

Latin American airlines: Saw a 61.3% drop in September traffic, compared to the same month
in 2019, an upturn over the 62.6% decline in August compared to August 2019.
September capacity fell 55.6% and load factor dropped 10.7 percentage points to
72.0%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 12th
consecutive month.

African airlines: Their traffic fell 62.2% in September versus two years’ ago, almost 4 percentage points worse than the 58.5% decline in August compared to August 2019. September capacity was down 49.3% and load factor declined 18.4 percentage points to 53.7%.

Domestic markets were down 24.3% compared
to September 2019, a significant improvement from August 2021, when traffic was
down 32.6% versus two years ago. All markets showed improvement with the
exception of Japan and Russia, although the latter remained in solid growth
territory compared to 2019.

Brazil: Its domestic
market sustained gradual recovery amid positive vaccination progress. Traffic
was down 17.3% compared to September 2019 – improved from a 20.7% fall in

Japan: Its September
domestic traffic was down 65.5%, worsened from a 59.2% decline in August versus
August 2019, owing to the impact of restrictions.

Commenting on travel recovery Walsh said: “Each re-opening
announcement seems to come with similar but different rules. We cannot let the
recovery get bogged down in complication.

“The ICAO High Level Conference on Covid-19 agreed that harmonization should be a priority. The G20 declared (PDF document) a commitment to take action to support a recovery with seamless travel, sustainability, and digitalisation. Now governments must put actions behind these words to realize simple and effective measures. People, jobs, businesses and economies are counting on real progress.”

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