IATA Reports Strong International Air Traffic Has Propelled Continuing Air Travel Recovery

MDRX, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – In a finding released 9 June, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that global air travel continued a strong recovery trend through April.

This recovery continued despite the significant impacts of the war in Ukraine and severe travel restrictions in China.

IATA attributed the strong recovery trend primarily to the demand for international travel, and noted that overall domestic travel was slightly down on the same time last year.

Year-on-Year traffic comparisons

Measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), IATA made the following year-on-year comparisons for April 2022:

TOTAL demand for air travel: The overall global demand for air travel (international and domestic) for April 2022 was up 78.7% compared to April 2021.

This figure shows a slight increase on the year-on-year figure for March, which came in at 76.0%

Demand for international travel: International travel figures for April 2022 show an increase of 331.9% on April 2021.

IATA’s report notes that several route areas are actually now above pre-pandemic levels, with the key regions being: Europe – Central America, Middle East – North America and North America – Central America.

Demand for domestic travel: April demand for domestic travel globally was slightly down at 1.0% less than in April 2021.

This is directly attributed to the substantial decrease in China’s domestic air travel, which was down 80.8% year-on-year, as a result of their strict travel restrictions.

Comparing the April 2022 domestic travel demand to pre-pandemic levels – IATA note that global domestic travel is down 25.8% comparative to the same time in 2019.

General outlook

It comes as no great surprise that the surge in demand for international travel is relatively high, as people emerge from a two-year period of relatively severe restriction of international movement.

IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh summarises:

“With the lifting of many border restrictions, we are seeing the long-expected surge in bookings as people seek to make up for two years of lost travel opportunities.”

“April data is cause for optimism in almost all markets, except China, which continues to severely restrict travel.”

“The experience of the rest of the world is demonstrating that increased travel is manageable with high levels of population immunity and the normal systems for disease surveillance.”

“We hope that China can recognize this success soon and take its own steps towards normality,” he concluded.

International passenger markets at a glance

All international aviation market sectors showed a year-on-year demand increase:

European carriers: Up 480.0% versus April 2021.

Asia-Pacific airlines: Up 290.8% versus April 2021.

Middle Eastern airlines: Up 265.0% versus April 2021.

Latin American airlines: Up 263.2% versus April 2021.

North American carriers: Up 230.2% versus April 2021.

African airlines: Up 116.2% versus April 2021.


Director General Walsh makes two broad observations – firstly, the rebound to pre-Covid levels remains robust with people seeking to make up for lost time.

Secondly, he sees shortcomings in government strategy and response as problematic. He concluded:

“With the northern summer travel season now upon us, two things are clear: two-years of border restrictions have not weakened the desire for the freedom to travel.”

“However, it is also evident that the failings in how governments managed the pandemic have continued into the recovery.”

“It is no wonder that we are seeing operational delays in some locations. In those few locations where these problems are recurring, solutions need to be found so passengers can travel with confidence.”

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