Global air travel demand continued bounce back in 2023

An airport terminal with Arrivals and Departures board.
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently disclosed promising statistics regarding the recovery of commercial air travel, particularly highlighting the notable strides made by the sector in December 2023.

The data indicates a steady resurgence in air travel, with the total traffic for the year edging even closer to pre-pandemic levels, marking a key recovery milestone for the aviation industry.

In 2023, total traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), surged by an impressive 36.9% compared to the previous year, showcasing a robust rebound.

Globally, the full-year traffic for 2023 reached 94.1% of pre-pandemic levels, indicating a substantial recovery trajectory.

December 2023 witnessed a substantial increase in total traffic, soaring by 25.3% compared to the same period in 2022, reaching 97.5% of the December 2019 level.

The fourth quarter of 2023 particularly stood out with traffic levels reaching 98.2% of the 2019 figures, underscoring the momentum gained towards the year’s end.

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International air travel exhibited remarkable resilience in 2023, with a notable 41.6% surge compared to 2022, achieving 88.6% of 2019 levels.

December 2023 witnessed a substantial 24.2% increase in international traffic compared to the previous year, reaching 94.7% of the December 2019 level.

Similarly, domestic air travel experienced a significant uptick, rising by 30.4% compared to the prior year. Notably, December 2023 domestic traffic surpassed the 2019 figures by 2.3%, reflecting a promising resurgence.

The fourth quarter of 2023 demonstrated a 4.4% increase in domestic traffic compared to the same period in 2019, showcasing sustained growth.

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Insights from IATA

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, expressed optimism regarding the post-pandemic recovery, emphasizing the importance of strategic government interventions.

He highlighted the crucial role of air travel in powering the global economy and urged governments to focus on providing cost-efficient infrastructure, incentivizing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production, and adopting regulations that deliver clear cost-benefit outcomes.

Walsh emphasized that completing the recovery should not overshadow the pivotal role of aviation in enhancing prosperity and well-being worldwide.

Regional Performance Highlights


Full-year international traffic in the Asia-Pacific region surged by an impressive 126.1% compared to 2022, maintaining its position as the strongest performing region.

European Carriers

European carriers witnessed a 22.0% increase in full-year traffic compared to 2022, with December traffic surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

Middle Eastern Airlines

Middle Eastern airlines reported a 33.3% rise in traffic in 2023, with December demand soaring by 16.6% compared to the previous year.

North American Carriers

North American carriers experienced a notable 28.3% annual traffic rise in 2023, accompanied by a 13.5% increase in December traffic.

Latin American Airlines

Latin American airlines posted a substantial 28.6% traffic rise in 2023, with December demand surging by 26.5% compared to the previous year.

African Airlines

African airlines witnessed a commendable 38.7% annual traffic rise in 2023, though December figures indicated a more modest 9.5% increase compared to the previous year.


The strong recovery of air travel in 2023 signifies a key milestone for the aviation industry, with traffic levels now steadily approaching pre-pandemic norms.

Viewed overall, the data underscores the resilience of the commercial sector, and highlights the pivotal role of air travel in driving global connectivity and economic prosperity.

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IATA data for 2023 reveals a steady resurgence of air travel, with total traffic for the year having edged even closer to pre-pandemic levels.
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