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Passenger Demand Is On The Up, But Omicron Still Looming Over Aviation Recovery: IATA

LONDON – The International Air Transport Association has published its full-year global passenger traffic results for 2021.

The report highlighted that demand (RPKs) fell by 58.4% as compared to full-year statistics of 2019.

The report also highlighted that the results were far better than that of 2020 when the first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the globe, where the RPKs were down by 65.8% as compared to the previous year.

According to the report, in 2021, the international passenger demand was 75.5% below 2019 levels.

Capacity (ASKs) declined by 65.3% and load factor fell well below 24 percent points closing at 58%. However, domestic demand was also impacted by 28.2% as compared to 2019.

Capacity shrunk by 19.2% and load factor dropped 9.3 percent point closing at 74.3%. the cumulative traffic for December 2021 was 45.1% below the same month as compared to 2019.

Furthermore, Omicron travel restrictions slumped the recovery in international demand for about two weeks in December 2021.

Simultaneously, the international demand has been recovering at a pace of four percentage points per month as compared to that of 2019.

IATA asserted that, without Omicron, the international air transport industry would have experienced international demand of around 56.5% below the levels of 2019 exclusively for the month of December.

However, the volumes surged marginally to 58.4% below 2019 levels from that -60.5% in November 2021.

IATA Director General Mr. Willie Walsh expressed his views by saying, “Overall travel demand strengthened in 2021. That trend continued into December despite travel restrictions in the face of Omicron.”

“That says a lot about the strength of passenger confidence and the desire to travel. The challenge for 2022 is to reinforce that confidence by normalizing travel.”

“While international travel remains far from normal in many parts of the world, there is momentum in the right direction. Last week, France and Switzerland announced a significant easing of measures.”

“And yesterday the UK removed all testing requirements for vaccinated travelers. We hope others will follow their important lead, particularly in Asia where several key markets remain in virtual isolation.”

The report further analyzed that Asia-Pacific airlines witnessed an international traffic plunge of 93.2% in 2021 in comparison with 2019, which is believed to be the deepest decline for any region.

In December 2021, the international traffic plunged further 87.5%, but still better than that of November 2021, where it was staggering at 84.9%.

Although the full-year capacity was down by 84.9% as compared with 2019 levels. Load factor was impacted by 44.3 percentage points to 36.5%.

Amongst European carriers, the total international traffic was down by 67.6% in 2021 as compared to 2019 levels.

Capacity was impacted by 57.4% and load factor was down by 20.6 percentage points closing at 65.0%

The Middle Eastern carriers were significantly impacted by 71.6% in passenger volumes as compared to that of 2019.

Furthermore, annual capacity fell by 57.7% and load factor dropped 25.1 percentage points to 51.1%.

North American carrier’s full-year traffic was down by 65.6% as compared to that of 2019.

The capacity dropped 52% and the load factor dropped to 283.8 percent point to 72.6%, surprisingly the highest among the regions.

Mr. Walsh mentioned that “As COVID-19 continues to evolve from the pandemic to endemic stage, it is past time for governments to evolve their responses away from travel restrictions that repeatedly have been shown to be ineffective in preventing the spread of the disease, but which inflict enormous harm on lives and economies.”

“A New Year’s resolution for governments should be to focus on building population immunity and stop placing travel barriers in the way of a return to normality.”

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