Commercial aviation advances in its recovery

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Commercial aviation advances in its recovery
Source: Twitter @IATA
July 07, 2022

According to figures published by IATA, global traffic is now at 68.7% of pre-health crisis levels


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced May 2022 passenger data showing the recovery in air travel has accelerated ahead of the busy summer travel season in the Northern Hemisphere.

Note: We have reverted to year-over-year traffic comparisons, rather than comparisons to the 2019 period, unless otherwise noted. Due to the low traffic base in 2021, some markets will show very high year-over-year growth rates, even if the size of these markets remains significantly smaller than in 2019.

  • Total traffic in May 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) increased by 83.1% compared to May 2021, largely driven by the strong recovery in international traffic. Global traffic is now at 68.7% of pre-crisis levels.
  • Domestic traffic for May 2022 increased by 0.2% compared to the same period of the previous year. Significant improvements in many markets were masked by a 73.2% year-on-year decline in the Chinese domestic market due to COVID-19 related restrictions. May 2022 domestic traffic was 76.7% of May 2019.
  • International traffic increased by 325.8% compared to May 2021. The relaxation of travel restrictions in most of Asia is accelerating the recovery of international travel. International RPKs for May 2022 reached 64.1% of May 2019 levels.

“The travel recovery continues to gain momentum. People need to travel. And when governments lift COVID-19 restrictions, they do. Many major international route areas, including within Europe and Middle East and North American routes, are already exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels. Completely removing all COVID-19 restrictions is the way forward, with Australia being the latest to do so this week. The main exception to the optimism of this uptick in travel is China, which saw a dramatic 73.2% drop in domestic travel compared to the previous year. Their continued zero COVID policy is out of step with the rest of the world and it shows in the dramatically slower recovery of China-related travel,” said Willie Walsh,

International Passenger Markets
 

May traffic from European carriers increased 412.3% compared to May 2021. Capacity increased 221.3% and load factor rose 30.1 percentage points to 80.6%. The impact of the war in Ukraine remained limited to the areas directly affected.
 

Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 453.3% increase in May traffic compared to May 2021. This is significantly higher than the 295.3% year-over-year increase recorded in April 2022. Capacity increased by 118.8% and load factor increased 43.6 percentage points to 72.1%. The improvements in the region are being driven by the easing of restrictions in most markets in the region, except China.

Middle East airline traffic increased 317.2% in May compared to May 2021. May capacity increased 115.7% compared to the prior year period and load factor increased 37, 1 percentage point to 76.8%. The progressive reopening of Asian markets is driving traffic through the Gulf hubs.

North American carriers saw traffic increase 203.4% in May compared to the 2021 period. Capacity increased 101.1% and load factor rose 27.1 percentage points to 80.3%. With most restrictions on travelers from this region lifted, tourism and a strong willingness to travel continue to fuel international recovery, as several other route areas are now outperforming 2019 results.

May traffic for Latin American airlines increased 180.5% compared to the same month in 2021. May capacity increased 135.3% and load factor increased 13.5 percentage points to 83.4%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 20th consecutive month. Some routes, including those from Central America to Europe and North America, are exceeding 2019 levels.

African airlines saw a 134.9% increase in RPKs for May compared to a year ago. May 2022 capacity increased 78.5% and load factor rose 16.4 percentage points to 68.4%, the lowest among regions.

India's domestic RPKs increased by 405.7% year-on-year in May, compared to a 78.6% increase in April. In May 2021, India experienced the most severe COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

US domestic traffic. USA. increased 26.1% in May, compared to May 2021.

2022 vs. 2019
Strong results in most domestic and international markets compared to a year ago are helping passenger demand reach 2019 levels. Total RPKs in May 2022 reached 68.7% of May 2019 levels, which was the best performance against pre-COVID-19 travel so far this year.

The bottom line
“The recovery in travel markets is nothing short of impressive. As we move into the peak summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, system stresses are appearing in some European and North American hubs. No one wants passengers to experience delays or cancellations. But passengers can rest assured that solutions are being implemented urgently. Airlines, airports and governments are working together, however, mustering the necessary workforce to meet the growing demand will take time and require patience in the few places where bottlenecks are most severe.
 

In the longer term, governments need to improve their understanding of how aviation operates and work more closely with airports and airlines. Having created so much uncertainty with knee-jerk COVID-19 policy changes and preventing most opportunities to work in unison by global standards, their actions did little to allow for a gradual increase in activity. And it is unacceptable that the industry is now facing a potential punitive regulatory deluge as various governments fill their post-COVID-19 regulatory calendars. Aviation has been at its best when governments and industry work together to agree and implement global standards. That axiom is as true after COVID-19 as it was in the previous century." Walsh said.

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