Negative passenger demand trend continues in February
International passenger demand in February was 88.7% below February 2019
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger traffic fell in February 2021, both compared to pre-COVID levels (February 2019) and compared to the immediately previous month (January 2021).
As comparisons between the 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise stated, all comparisons are for February 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue per passenger per kilometer or RPKs) fell 74.7% compared to February 2019. This was worse than the 72.2% drop recorded in January 2021 compared to two years ago.
International passenger demand in February was 88.7% below February 2019, an additional drop from the 85.7% annual drop recorded in January and the worst growth result since July 2020. Performance across all regions worsened compared to January 2021.
Total domestic demand fell by 51.0% compared to pre-crisis levels (February 2019). In January, it fell 47.8% compared to the 2019 period. This was largely due to weakness in travel to China, driven by government requests for citizens to stay home during the Lunar New Year travel period. .
“February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel. In fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions increased in the face of continuing concerns about new variants of the coronavirus. An important exception was the Australian domestic market. A relaxation of restrictions on domestic flights has resulted in a significantly greater number of trips. This tells us that people have not lost their desire to travel. They will fly, as long as they can do it without facing quarantine measures, ”said Willie Walsh, IATA Director General.
International Passenger Markets
Asia-Pacific airline traffic in February fell 95.2% compared to February 2019, little changed compared to the 94.8% drop recorded in January 2021 compared to January 2019. The region continued to suffer the biggest drops in traffic for the eighth consecutive month. Capacity fell 87.5% and the occupancy rate fell 50.0 percentage points to 31.1%, the lowest among regions.
European operators recorded an 89.0% drop in traffic in February compared to February 2019, substantially worse than the 83.4% drop in January compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity sank 80.5 % and the occupancy rate fell 36.0 percentage points to 46.4%.
Middle Eastern airlines saw demand drop 83.1% in February compared to February 2019, worsening from an 82.1% drop in demand in January, compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 68, 6% and the occupancy rate decreased 33.4 percentage points to 39.0%.
US carrier traffic in February fell 83.1% compared to the 2019 period, a deterioration from a 79.2% decline in January from year to year. Capacity fell 63.9% and the occupancy rate fell 41.9 percentage points to 36.7%.
Latin American airlines experienced an 83.5% drop in demand in February compared to the same month in 2019, markedly worse than the 78.5% drop in January 2019. February capacity dropped 75 , 4% compared to February 2019 and the occupancy rate fell 26.7 percentage points to 54.6%, the highest among regions for the fifth consecutive month.
African airline traffic fell 68.0% in February compared to February two years ago, which was a setback compared to a 66.1% drop recorded in January compared to January 2019. The capacity to February decreased by 54.6% in relation to February 2019, and the occupancy rate fell 20.5 percentage points to 49.1%.
Australia's domestic traffic fell 60.5% in February compared to February 2019, improving dramatically compared to the 77.3% decline in January compared to 2019. Some state border restrictions were eased in early February.
U.S. domestic traffic decreased 56.1% in February compared to the same month of 2019, an improvement over the 58.4% drop in January compared to two years ago. The improvement was driven by the fall in contagion rates and the acceleration of vaccinations.
The Bottom Line
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States recently declared that vaccinated individuals can travel safely. They are good news. We have also recently seen research by Oxera-Edge Health highlighting the effectiveness of fast, accurate and affordable tests for COVID-19. These developments should reassure governments that there are ways to efficiently manage COVID-19 risks without relying on quarantine measures to eliminate demand and / or expensive and time-consuming PCR tests, ”said Walsh.
“Two main components for an efficient restart of the trip urgently need to be progressed. The first is the development of global standards for the COVID-19 digital test and / or vaccination certificates. The second is a government agreement to accept certificates digitally. Our experiences to date already demonstrate that paper-based systems are not a sustainable option. They are vulnerable to fraud. And even with the limited number of flights today, the check-in process needs pre-COVID-19 staffing levels just to handle the paperwork.
Paper processes will not be sustainable when travel increases. The IATAapplicative Travel Pass was developed precisely in anticipation of this need to manage health credentials digitally. Its first full implementation test is focused on Singapore, where the government has already announced that it will accept health certificates through the app. This will be an essential consideration for all governments when they are ready to reconnect their economies with the world through air travel, ”said Walsh.