Global air travel showed a “moderate” rebound in September versus August as domestic markets, China in particular, recovered, but international demand “slipped slightly”.
This was according to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“September’s performance is a positive development but recovery in international traffic remains stalled amid continuing border closures and quarantine mandates,” confirmed Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
(Because the extraordinary impact of COVID-19 distorted results, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are to September 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.)
Total demand for air travel in September 2021, measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) was down 53.4% versus September 2019.
This marked an uptick from August, when demand was 56.0 percent below August 2019 levels.
Domestic markets were down 24.3 percent, a significant improvement from August 2021, when traffic was down 32.6 percent 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.
International passenger demand in September went down 69.2 percent, fractionally worse than the 68.7 percent decline recorded in August.
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.
This was due to the fact that 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 percent, easily the lowest among regions.
Middle Eastern airlines had a 67.1 percent demand drop in September compared to September 2019, slightly improved over the 68.9 percent decrease in August, versus the same month in 2019.
Capacity declined 52.6 percent, and load factor slipped 23.1 percentage points to 52.2 percent.
North American carriers experienced a 61.0 percent traffic drop in September versus the 2019 period, somewhat improved on the 59.3 percent decline in August compared to August 2019.
Capacity dropped 47.6 percent, and load factor fell 21.3 percentage points to 61.9 percent.
Latin American airlines saw a 61.3 percent drop in September traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, an upturn over the 62.6 percent decline in August compared to August 2019.
September capacity fell 55.6 percent and load factor dropped 10.7 percentage points to 72.0 percent, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 12th consecutive month.
European carriers’ September international traffic declined 56.9 percent versus September 2019, down 1 percentage point compared to the 55.9 percent decrease in August versus the same month in 2019.
Capacity dropped 46.3 percent and load factor fell 17.2 percentage points to 69.6 percent.
African airlines’ traffic fell 62.2 percent in September versus two years’ ago, almost 4 percentage points worse than the 58.5 percent decline in August compared to August 2019.
September capacity was down 49.3 percent and load factor declined 18.4 percentage points to 53.7 percent.
Notably, “Each re-opening announcement seems to come with similar but different rules. We cannot let the recovery get bogged down in complication,” according to Walsh.
“The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) High Level Conference on COVID-19 agreed that harmonization should be a priority. Now governments must put actions behind these words,” he concluded.