IATA reports continued slump in air traffic demand

Published on : Friday, April 9, 2021

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently reported that passenger traffic fell in February, both compared to pre-COVID-19 levels in February 2019, and to the immediate month before January this year. Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to February 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

According to reports, total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 75 per cent compared to February 2019, worse than the 72 per cent decline recorded in January this year versus two years ago. International passenger demand in February was 89 per cent below February 2019, a further drop from the 86 per cent year-to-year decline recorded in January and the worst growth outcome since July 2020.

Performance in all regions worsened compared to January 2021. Total domestic demand was down 51 per cent versus pre-crisis (February 2019) levels. In January it was down 48 per cent on the 2019 period. This largely was due to weakness in China travel, driven by government requests that citizens stay at home during the Lunar New Year travel period. Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA said in a statement that February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel.

He mentioned that most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants. He shared that the Australian domestic market was an important exception. He said that a relaxation of restrictions on domestic flying resulted in significantly more travel which showed that people have not lost their desire travel. He said that people will fly, provided they can do so without facing quarantine measures.

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