Strong international air traffic propels air travel recovery

According to International Air Transport Association‘s latest report, air traffic has resumed its strong recovery trend throughout April 2022, driven primarily by international demand.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that air travel resumed its strong recovery trend in April 2022, despite the war in Ukraine and travel restrictions in China. This was driven primarily by international demand. 

  • Total demand for air travel in April 2022 (measured in revenue passenger km or RPKs) was up 78.7 per cent compared to April 2021 and slightly ahead of March 2022’s 76.0 per cent year-over-year increase
  • April 2022 domestic air travel was down 1.0 per cent compared to the year-ago period,  a reversal from the 10.6 per cent demand rise in March 2022. This was driven entirely by continuing strict travel restrictions in China, where domestic traffic was down 80.8 per cent year-to-year. Overall, April 2022 domestic traffic was down 25.8 per cent versus April 2019
  • International RPKs rose 331.9 per cent versus April 2021, an acceleration over the 289.9 per cent rise in March 2022 compared to a year ago. Several route areas are actually above pre-pandemic levels, including Europe, Central America, Middle East, North America and North America, Central America. April 2022 international RPKs were down 43.4 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

“With the lifting of many border restrictions, we are seeing the long-expected surge in bookings as people seek to make up for two years of lost travel opportunities. April data is cause for optimism in almost all markets, except China, which continues to severely restrict travel. The experience of the rest of the world is demonstrating that increased travel is manageable with high levels of population immunity and the normal systems for disease surveillance. We hope that China can recognise this success soon and take its own steps towards normality,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. 

 Credit: IATA

International passenger markets

  • European carriers’ April 2022 international traffic rose 480.0 per cent versus April 2021, substantially up over the 434.3 per cent increase in March 2022 versus the same month in 2021. Capacity rose 233.5 per cent and load factor climbed 33.7 percentage points to 79.4 per cent
  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw their April 2022 international traffic climb 290.8 per cent compared to April 2021, significantly improved on the 197.2 per cent gain registered in March 2022 versus March 2021. Capacity rose 88.6 per cent and the load factor was up 34.6 percentage points to 66.8 per cent, still the lowest among regions
  • Middle Eastern airlines had a 265.0 per cent demand rise in April 2022 compared to April 2021, bettering the 252.7 per cent increase in March 2022, versus the same month in 2021. April 2022 capacity rose 101.0 per cent versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 32.2 percentage points to 71.7 per cent
  • North American carriers’ April 2022 traffic rose 230.2 per cent versus the 2021 period, slightly above the 227.9 per cent rise in March 2022 compared to March 2021. Capacity rose 98.5 per cent, and load factor climbed 31.6 percentage points to 79.3 per cent
  • Latin American airlines experienced a 263.2 per cent rise in April 2022 traffic, compared to the same month in 2021, exceeding the 241.2 per cent rise in March 2022 over March 2021. April capacity rose 189.1 per cent and load factor increased 16.8 percentage points to 82.3 per cent, which easily was the highest load factor among the regions for the 19th consecutive month
  • African airlines’ traffic rose 116.2 per cent in April 2022 versus a year ago, an acceleration over the 93.3 per cent year-over-year increase recorded in March 2022. April 2022 capacity was up 65.7 per cent and load factor climbed 15.7 percentage points to 67.3 per cent.

Domestic passenger markets

Credit: IATA

  • Australia’s domestic demand rose 47.5 per cent compared to April 2021, an improvement over the 36.5 per cent rise in March 2022 traffic, owing to the lifting of travel restrictions and rising consumer confidence
  • Japan likewise saw monthly gains, with domestic RPKs up 57.0 per cent year-over-year, up from a 46.5 per cent rise in March 2022 compared to March 2021.  

2022 vs 2019

Total April 2022 passenger demand was down 37.2 per cent compared to the same month in 2019, which is an improvement compared to the 41.3 per cent decline for March 2022 versus March 2019. 

Credit: IATA

The Bottom Line

“With the northern summer travel season now upon us, two things are clear: two-years of border restrictions have not weakened the desire for the freedom to travel. Where it is permitted, demand rapidly is returning to pre-COVID levels. However, it is also evident that the failings in how governments managed the pandemic have continued into the recovery. With governments making U-turns and policy changes there was uncertainty until the last minute, leaving little time to restart an industry that was largely dormant for two years. It is no wonder that we are seeing operational delays in some locations. In those few locations where these problems are recurring, solutions need to be found so passengers can travel with confidence.

“In less than two weeks, leaders of the global aviation community will gather in Doha at the 78th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit. This year’s AGM will take place as a wholly in-person event for the first time since 2019. It should send a strong signal that it is time for governments to lift any remaining restrictions and requirements and prepare for an enthusiastic response by consumers who are voting with their feet for a full restoration of their right to travel,” added Walsh. 

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