Global passenger demand takes another hit in January 2021

Global passenger demand in January 2021 fell compared to both pre-COVID-19 levels in January 2019 and also December 2020.

Global passenger demand takes another hit in January 2021

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that passenger traffic fell in January 2021, both compared to pre-COVID-19 levels (January 2019) and compared to the immediate month prior (December 2020). 

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are to January 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

Total demand in January 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) was down by 72 per cent compared to January 2019. That was worse than the 69.7 per cent year-over-year decline recorded in December 2020

Total domestic demand was down by 47.4 per cent versus pre-crisis (January 2019) levels. In December 2020, it was down by 42.9 per cent on the previous year. This weakening is largely driven by stricter domestic travel controls in China over the Lunar New Year holiday period. 

International passenger demand in January 2021 was 85.6 per cent below January 2019, a further drop compared to the 85.3 per cent year-to-year decline recorded in December 2020. 

“2021 is starting off worse than 2020 ended, and that is saying a lot. Even as vaccination programmes gather pace, new COVID-19 variants are leading governments to increase travel restrictions. The uncertainty around how long these restrictions will last also has an impact on future travel. Forward bookings in February 2021 for the Northern Hemisphere summer travel season were 78 per cent below levels in February 2019,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. 

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