Recovery of global air travel continues in March: IATA
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Recovery of global air travel continues in March: IATA

Recovery of global air travel continues in March: IATA

According to data from IATA, Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 245.8 per cent in March compared to the same period last year

IATA March GettyImages

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released international passenger data for March, demonstrating the continuing recovery of air travel globally this year.

The data showed that the impact of the crisis in Ukraine on air travel demand was quite limited overall while Omicron-related effects continued to be confined largely to Asian domestic markets.

Total traffic in March 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was up 76.0 per cent compared to March 2021. And while that was lower than the 115.9 per cent rise in February year-over-year demand, volumes in March were the closest to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, at 41 per cent below.

IATA figures showed domestic traffic was up 11.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2021, far below the 60.7 per cent year-over-year improvement recorded in February. This was linked to Omicron-related lockdowns in China. March domestic RPKs were down 23.2 per cent versus March 2019.

International RPKs rose 285.3 per cent versus March 2021, exceeding the 259.2 per cent gain experienced in February versus the same period last year.

Most regions boosted their performance compared to the prior month, led by carriers in Europe. In March, international RPKs were down 51.9 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

“With barriers to travel coming down in most places, we are seeing the long-expected surge in pent-up demand finally being realised. Unfortunately, we are also seeing long delays at many airports with insufficient resources to handle the growing numbers. This must be addressed urgently to avoid frustrating consumer enthusiasm for air travel,” said Willie Walsh, director general, IATA.

International passenger markets

IATA data shows that European carriers continued to lead the recovery, with March traffic rising 425.4 per cent versus March 2021, improved over the 384.6 per cent increase in February 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. The impact of the crisis in Ukraine has been relatively limited outside of traffic to/from Russia and countries neighboring the conflict. Capacity rose 224.5 per cent, and load factor climbed 27.8 percentage points to 72.7 per cent.

Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 245.8 per cent in March compared to the same period last year, an improvement compared to the 218.2 per cent increase in February, versus the same month in 2021. March capacity rose 96.6 per cent versus the year-ago period, and the load factor climbed 31.1 percentage points to 72.1 per cent.

Latin American airlines’ March traffic rose 239.9 per cent compared to the same month in 2021, little changed from the 241.9 per cent increase in February 2022 compared to February 2021. The region benefitted from the end of bankruptcy procedures for some of the main carriers based there. March capacity rose 173.2 per cent and load factor increased 15.8 percentage points to 80.3 per cent, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 18th consecutive month.

North American carriers experienced a 227.8 per cent traffic rise in March versus the 2021 period, slightly down on the 237.3 per cent rise in February 2022 over February 2021. Capacity rose 91.9 per cent, and load factor climbed 31.2 percentage points to 75.4 per cent.

Asia-Pacific airlines had a 197.1 per cent rise in March traffic compared to March 2021, up over the 146.5 per cent gain registered in February 2022 versus February 2021. While China and Japan remain restrictive to foreign visitors, other countries are becoming more relaxed, including South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand. Capacity rose 70.7 per cent and the load factor was up 24.1 percentage points to 56.6 per cent, the lowest among regions.

African airlines had a 91.8 per cent rise in March RPKs versus a year ago, improved compared to the 70.8 per cent year-over-year increase recorded in February compared to the same month in 2021. Air travel demand is challenged by low vaccination rates on the continent as well as impacts from rising inflation. March 2022 capacity was up 49.9 per cent and load factor climbed 14.1 percentage points to 64.5 per cent.

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