Peak Travel Season Ends on a High for August

Aircraft lined up on a busy airport taxiway.
RM Bulseco from Davao City, Philippines, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – IATA has released the traffic numbers for August for both the global passenger and freight traffic, showing the Northern summer peak season has ended up on a high note.

Passenger numbers

Air travel was peaking in August, as shown by the numbers, as the revenue passenger kilometer, or RPK for short, was up 67.7% compared to August 2021 and the global traffic compared to pre-COVID levels are at a staggering 73.7% of what they used to be.

Asia has seen the biggest international traffic growth in August, delivering a staggering 115.6% growth compared to August 2021 while the total RPK growth in Asia has only risen by 67.4% compared to 2019 levels.

“The Northern Hemisphere peak summer air travel season finished on a high note. Considering the prevailing economic uncertainties, travel demand is progressing well.”

“And the removal or easing of travel restrictions at some key Asian destinations, including Japan, will certainly accelerate the recovery in Asia. The mainland of China is the last major market retaining severe COVID-19 entry restrictions,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Willie Walsh, who has also been present at the World Aviation Festival, commented on the following statements to Guy Johnson, whom he had been interviewing. Walsh said he remained very optimistic about the industry, stating that the fact that it had come through the pandemic, and the measures it had taken to survive, demonstrated its resilience.

Asked whether there were lessons to be learned from the past year, he said the industry didn’t anticipate the timeframes required for getting clearance for security personnel and acknowledged the challenge of attracting people back to an industry that was encountering major challenges. 
He said the industry was set for annual global growth of around 3-4%, with continued growth in Europe, and significant growth in Asia, with the exception of China where the domestic market is huge but international growth is slower.

The Table below shows growth per world region for August 2022:

Table of IATA international air travel statistics for world regions.

1) % of industry RPKs in 2021    2) Year-on-year change in load factor    3) Load Factor Level  Source: IATA

Market growth per region

The Asia-Pacific region had a significant air traffic growth of a total of 449.2% in August compared to August 2021. Capacity had been increased by 167.0% and the load factor was up 40.1 percentage points, which means that the new load factor has become 78.0%. While these numbers look great, remaining travel restrictions in China continue to hamper the overall recovery program.

European carriers’ August traffic climbed 78.8% versus August 2021. Capacity rose 48.0%, and load factor increased 14.7 percentage points to 85.5%. The region had the second highest load factor after North America.

Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 144.9% in August compared to August 2021. Capacity rose 72.2% versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 23.7 percentage points to 79.8%.

North American carriers saw a 110.4% traffic rise in August versus the 2021 period. Capacity rose 69.7%, and load factor climbed 16.9 percentage points to 87.2%, which was the highest among the regions.

Latin American airlines’ August traffic rose 102.5% compared to the same month in 2021. August capacity rose 80.8% and load factor increased 8.9 percentage points to 83.5%.

African airlines experienced a 69.5% rise in August RPKs versus a year ago. August 2022 capacity was up 45.3% and load factor climbed 10.8 percentage points to 75.9%, the lowest among regions. International air travel between Africa and neighboring regions is close to pre-pandemic levels.

Cargo traffic

The cargo demand has been falling slightly, with some regions going into the negatives when it comes to cargo ton-kilometer (or CTK) compared to August 2021 (-9.3% in international operations). Despite this negative growth, it is still a slight improvement by 0.4 percentage points on the year-on-year decline in July.

Capacity has been growing, as the capacity was +6.3% above August 2021 (+6.1% for international operations).

1) % of industry RPKs in 2021    2) Year-on-year change in load factor    3) Load Factor Level  Source: IATA

IATA statement

“Air cargo continues to demonstrate resilience. Cargo volumes, while tracking below the exceptional performance of 2021, have been relatively stable in the face of economic uncertainties and geopolitical conflicts.”

“Market signals remain mixed. August presented several indicators with upside potential: oil prices stabilized, inflation slowed and there was a slight expansion in goods traded globally.”

“But the decrease in new export orders in all markets except the US tells us that developments in the months ahead will need to be watched carefully,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

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