Global air passenger demand continues recovery through October

A crowd of passengers at Vancouver International Airport
Photo Credit: Vancouver International Airport

Latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that the ongoing recovery in global air passenger demand continued in October.

The growth in passenger demand continued its upward trajectory in October 2023, marking a significant leap compared to the same period in 2022.

A 31.2% Rise in Total Traffic

Measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), the total traffic for October 2023 witnessed a remarkable 31.2% increase from October 2022.

This surge indicates a robust recovery, with global traffic now soaring at an impressive 98.2% of pre-COVID levels.

Domestic: China Takes the Lead

Domestic traffic for October painted a particularly optimistic picture, rising by 33.7% compared to the previous year.

The standout performer in this category was China, boasting triple-digit percentage growth and surpassing October 2019 results by 4.8%.


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International: Slow but Steady

International traffic, although growing more slowly, climbed by 29.7% compared to the same month in 2022.

Globally, all markets experienced double-digit percentage gains year on year, with international RPKs reaching 94.4% of October 2019 levels.

Insights from IATA Director General

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, shared insights into the industry’s performance. He noted, “October’s strong result brings the industry ever closer to completing the post-pandemic traffic recovery.”

While domestic markets remain above pre-COVID levels, international demand is catching up, albeit at a more measured pace.

Walsh highlighted a specific challenge faced by Asia Pacific carriers, with their international demand trailing 19.5% behind 2019 levels.

Possible contributing factors include delayed lifting of COVID restrictions, commercial developments, and political tensions in the region.

Interior view of Pakistan Hyderabad Airport
Hyderabad Airport. Photo: reCreation, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Look at International Passenger Markets

Let’s delve into the air passenger demand performance of different regions:

Asia-Pacific Dominance

Asia-Pacific airlines stole the spotlight with an impressive 80.3% increase in October 2023 traffic compared to the previous year.

This region continues to lead the global recovery, with a capacity climb of 72.5% and a load factor reaching 82.9%.

Europe’s Resurgence

European carriers experienced a solid resurgence in air passenger demand, with October 2023 traffic rising by 16.1% against October 2022. Accompanied by a 14.5% increase in capacity, the load factor edged up to 85.1%.

Passengers in Brussels Airport main terminal.
Photo Credit: Brussels Airport

Middle East’s Upward Trajectory

Middle Eastern airlines posted a commendable 24.1% rise in October 2023 traffic. Despite regional challenges, the capacity rose by 22.2%, and the load factor climbed to 80.6%.

North America’s Steady Climb

North American carriers recorded a 17.5% traffic rise in October 2023, maintaining stability in load factor at 83.9%. This signals a steady recovery for the region.

Latin America’s Dynamic Growth

Latin American airlines showcased dynamic growth with a 21.2% rise in traffic compared to October 2022.

However, a faster climb in capacity (22.3%) pushed the load factor down to 85.3%, the highest among the regions.

Africa’s Uphill Journey

African airlines saw a notable 25.3% increase in October 2023 traffic. Despite a substantial capacity increase of 32.4%, the load factor declined to 70.3%, marking the lowest among the regions.

The Bottom Line

Summarizing in the words of Wille Walsh: “People assign a high value to the freedom to travel. The strong demand we’ve seen all year confirms that. And aviation is committed to ensuring that people can continue to enjoy this freedom.”

The full IATA report of October air passenger demand can be found here.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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