December Busiest Month for Air Travel in 2021 Globally Despite 59,000 Flight Cancellations

Photo: Conde Nast Traveller

LONDON – Cirium, the renowned aviation analytics firm has confirmed that December was the busiest month for air travel in the year 2021 for global aviation.

With 2.43 million passengers’ movements and despite global flight cancellations staggering at 59,240 between 24th December 2021 and 3rd January 2022, accounting for 2.4%, it was still a successful month.

The staggering flight cancellations have over this period were most in December, which, the highest in the past decade and six times more cancellations witnessed in 2019.

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A total of 20,500 flights were canceled in the first three days of the year 2021.

United States carriers including American Airlines, Delta Airline, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines have topped the chart with nearly 7,040 flight cancellations over the said period.

Photo: TripSavvy

The continued flight cancellations are due to the increasing Omicron cases and operational challenges such as bad weather conditions, staff shortages.

The report also stated that the large variances between the regions with US, Europe, and North Atlantic were down by 9-10%, China was up by 6%, while Asia- Pacific and the Middle East continued to suffer.

This was derived from the statistics which highlighted that, pre-Omicron global flight traffic increased by 1.5% on a week over week basis between 11th and 17th December 2021, but the global flight traffic then rapidly descended below 5% amid increasing Omicron transmission.

The report also highlighted that the continued effort to support the aviation industry was evident, as American Airlines flew a high volume of flights in 2021 staggering at 1,850,050 with keeping its on-time performance of 80.47%.

The airline did have trouble reinstating flight volumes after more than a year of deeply depressed demand yet completing 97.5% of its flights.

The report also named Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) as the busiest airport based on departing flight numbers staggering at 336,890 departures in 2021.

Despite this traffic volume, the airport has been ranked 15th in on-time performance of Top 20 Global Airports.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) was the second busiest with 123,070 departing flights in 2021 but did not make it to the Top 20 airport ranking chart for on-time performance.

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This is mainly because the airport has experienced variables of events this year’s such as comprehensive pandemic protocols, optimizing the reconciliation and collection of fees and services, and optimizing staffing.

Photo: UNWTO

Jeremy Bowen, CEO at Cirium said that “Flight disruptions affect airlines and airports differently – it depends on the availability and flexibility of equipment and resources in place to react quickly.”

Those that plan more conservatively will minimize their operational disruptions. Cirium monitors the level of disruption by measuring completion factor of flights and their on-time performance.” 

Mr. Bowen further added that “Cirium’s recent On-Time Performance Review shows how some airlines have focused on their operations to reduce the impact on passengers.”

For example, Delta Air Lines completed 99.8% of their flights from June to December 2021 and All Nippon Airways, the winner of the Global airline category winner in Cirium’s Review had a completion factor of 99.2%.”

What we do know overall is that the year was ended on a high, but of course, such flight cancellations going into 2022 are going to be problematic for the industry.

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Ajinkya Gurav

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