Air travel numbers remain strong through summer season

Interior of Ontario International Airport terminal.
Photo Credit: Ontario International Airport
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 7 Min Read
7 Min Read

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently shared that the momentum of post-COVID air travel recovery has carried forward into June for passenger markets around the world.

Total traffic in June 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 31.0% compared to June 2022. Globally, traffic is now at 94.2% of pre-COVID levels. For the first half of 2023, total traffic was up 47.2% compared to the year-ago period.

The Rise in Passenger Traffic


According to the data released by IATA, the total traffic in June 2023, measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), witnessed a remarkable increase of 31.0% in comparison to June 2022.

This surge is indicative of a significant rebound in air travel. The global traffic volume has managed to recover to an impressive 94.2% of pre-COVID levels. The first half of 2023 also recorded a substantial growth of 47.2% in total traffic compared to the same period in the previous year.

Domestic Travel’s Resurgence


In terms of domestic travel, the statistics are equally encouraging. June 2023 witnessed a 27.2% rise in domestic traffic when compared to the corresponding month in the previous year.

Impressively, this figure was 5.1% higher than the results observed in June 2019, indicating a rebound beyond pre-pandemic levels. The first half of 2023 demonstrated a remarkable increase of 33.3% in domestic air travel demand when compared to the same period in the prior year.

View of East Midlands Airport terminal area.
Photo Credit: East Midlands Airport

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Robust International Growth


The international air travel segment also experienced robust growth, with a 33.7% increase in traffic compared to June 2022. All markets contributed to this surge, signifying a global willingness to resume international travel.

The international revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) managed to reach an impressive 88.2% of the levels observed in June 2019. The first half of 2023 highlighted a substantial growth of 58.6% in international traffic when compared to the first half of 2022.

Insights from IATA’s Director General


Willie Walsh, the Director General of IATA, expressed his optimism about the recovery, emphasizing that the northern summer travel season had commenced on a strong note in June.

He highlighted the double-digit demand growth and the notable average load factors exceeding 84%.

The fact that airplanes are operating at near full capacity is indeed a positive sign, benefitting not only airlines but also local economies and the plethora of jobs tied to the travel and tourism sector.

International Passenger Markets’ Performance


Let’s delve into a regional breakdown of the data provided by IATA:

Asia-Pacific Airlines

The Asia-Pacific region emerged as a frontrunner with an astonishing 128.1% increase in traffic in June 2023 compared to the same month in 2022. This surge in demand was supported by a 115.6% increase in capacity. The load factor also improved, witnessing a rise of 4.6 percentage points to reach 82.9%.

European Carriers

European carriers experienced a commendable traffic rise of 14.0% in June 2023 compared to June 2022. Capacity in the region also grew by 12.6%, and the load factor increased by 1.1 percentage points, reaching 87.8%. This load factor was the second-highest among the regions.

Middle Eastern Airlines

Middle Eastern airlines demonstrated a substantial increase in traffic, climbing by 29.2% in June 2023 when compared to June the previous year. Capacity rose by 25.9%, and the load factor experienced a notable improvement of 2.0 percentage points, reaching 79.8%.

North American Carriers

The North American region also showcased a commendable performance, with a traffic increase of 23.3% in June 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. The capacity saw an increase of 19.5%, and the load factor surged by 2.7 percentage points, reaching an impressive 90.2%, which was the highest among all regions.

Latin American Airlines

Latin American air travel experienced a significant traffic increase of 25.8% in June 2023 compared to June 2022. This growth was accompanied by a 25.0% increase in capacity. The load factor also witnessed a rise of 0.6 percentage points, reaching 84.8%.

African Airlines

African airlines displayed a robust performance, witnessing a traffic increase of 34.7% in June 2023 compared to the same period in the previous year. However, it’s worth noting that the load factor experienced a decline of 5.1 percentage points, reaching 68.1%.

This decline marked Africa as the only region to observe a decrease in the monthly international load factor compared to the previous year.

Air Travel – Challenges and Opportunities


Willie Walsh’s statements shed light on certain challenges that the aviation industry is currently facing. Despite the strong demand for travel, capacity growth has not been able to keep up.

Challenges in the aviation supply chain have led to delays in receiving new aircraft, hindering airlines’ plans for fleet expansion.

Additionally, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are struggling to provide the required capacity and resilience to meet the growing travel demand, leading to delays and trimmed schedules.

Walsh also emphasized the need for accountability, particularly in areas where passenger rights regimes place the majority of accountability on airlines.

The call to address these challenges underscores the industry’s continuous efforts to ensure a seamless and efficient travel experience for passengers worldwide.

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