Global passenger traffic experiences slight growth in March 2021

Although global passenger traffic is still drastically below pre-crisis levels, March 2021 experienced a slight uptick compared to February 2021.

Global passenger traffic sees slight growth in March 2021

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that passenger traffic fell in March 2021 compared to pre-COVID-19 levels (March 2019) but rose compared to the immediate month prior (February 2021). 

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

Total demand for air travel in March 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs) was down by 67.2 per cent compared to March 2019. This was an improvement over the 74.9 per cent decline recorded in February 2021 versus February 2019. The better performance was driven by gains in domestic markets, particularly China. International traffic remained largely restricted.

International passenger demand in March was 87.8 per cent below March 2019, a very small improvement from the 89.0 per cent decline recorded in February 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. 

Total domestic demand was down by 32.3 per cent versus pre-crisis levels (March 2019), greatly improved over February 2021, when domestic traffic was down by 51.2 per cent versus the 2019 period. All markets except Brazil and India showed improvement compared to February 2021, with China being the key contributor, as already noted. 

“The positive momentum that we saw in some key domestic markets in March 2021 is an indication of the strong recovery that we are anticipating in international markets as travel restrictions are lifted. People want and need to fly, and we can be optimistic that they will do so when restrictions are removed,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. 

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