Category Archives: IATA

IATA: Passenger traffic improved in November; Omicron restrictions likely to affect period ahead

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in November 2021, prior to the emergence of Omicron. International demand sustained its steady upward trend as more markets reopened. Domestic traffic, however, weakened, largely owing to strengthened travel restrictions in China.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to November 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in November 2021 (measured in revenue passenger-kilometers or RPKs) was down 47.0% compared to November 2019. This marked an uptick compared to October’s 48.9% contraction from October 2019.
  • Domestic air travel deteriorated slightly in November after two consecutive monthly improvements. Domestic RPKs fell by 24.9% versus 2019 compared with a 21.3% decline in October. Primarily this was driven by China, where traffic fell 50.9% compared to 2019, after several cities introduced stricter travel restrictions to contain (pre-Omicron) COVID outbreaks.
  • International passenger demand in November was 60.5% below November 2019, bettering the 64.8% decline recorded in October.

“The recovery in air traffic continued in November. Unfortunately, governments over-reacted to the emergence of the Omicron variant at the close of the month and resorted to the tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travelers and quarantine to slow the spread. Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected. If the experience of the last 22 months has shown anything, it is that there is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders. And these measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year, ” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

International Passenger Markets

NOV 2021
(% VS NOV 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100%
-47.0%
-39.7%
-9.7%
71.3%
Africa
2.0%
-55.1%
-48.4%
-9.2%
61.6%
Asia Pacific
38.5%
-69.8%
-58.9%
-21.7%
59.7%
Europe
23.8%
-39.4%
-32.7%
-8.3%
75.2%
Latin America
5.6%
-27.5%
-27.4%
-0.1%
82.2%
Middle East
7.4%
-52.6%
-43.6%
-11.6%
61.6%
North America
22.7%
-18.8%
-15.4%
-3.3%
78.6%

European carriers’ November international traffic declined 43.7% versus November 2019, much improved compared to the 49.4% decrease in October versus the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 36.3% and load factor fell 9.7 percentage points to 74.3%.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their November international traffic fall 89.5% compared to November 2019, slightly improved from the 92.0% drop registered in October 2021 versus October 2019. Capacity dropped 80.0% and the load factor was down 37.8 percentage points to 42.2%, the lowest among regions.

Middle Eastern airlines had a 54.4% demand drop in November compared to November 2019, well up compared to the 60.9% decrease in October, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 45.5%, and load factor slipped 11.9 percentage points to 61.3%.

North American carriers experienced a 44.8% traffic drop in November versus the 2019 period, significantly improved over the 56.7% decline in October compared to October 2019. Capacity dropped 35.6%, and load factor fell 11.6 percentage points to 69.6%.

Latin American airlines saw a 47.2% drop in November traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, a marked upturn over the 54.6% decline in October compared to October 2019. November capacity fell 46.6% and load factor dropped 0.9 percentage points to 81.3%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 14th consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic fell 56.8% in November versus two years’ ago, improved over the 59.8% decline in October compared to October 2019. November capacity was down 49.6% and load factor declined 10.1 percentage points to 60.3%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

 

NOV 2021
(%VS NOV 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Domestic
54.2%
-24.9%
-18.3%
-6.6%
75.6%
Dom. Australia
0.8%
-71.6%
-57.4%
-27.9%
55.6%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-8.5%
-8.1%
-0.4%
82.3%
Dom. China P.R.
19.8%
-50.9%
-33.2%
-22.1%
61.1%
Dom India
2.1%
-17.1%
-7.1%
-9.6%
80.2%
Dom. Japan
1.4%
-37.5%
-23.6%
-14.3%
64.5%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
17.5%
12.6%
3.5%
83.5%
Dom. US
16.6%
-6.0%
-5.1%
-0.8%
81.4%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

Australia remained at the bottom of the domestic RPK chart for the fifth consecutive month with RPKs 71.6% below 2019, albeit this was improved from a 78.5% decline in October, owing to the reopening of some internal borders.

US domestic traffic was down just 6.0% compared November 2019 – improved from an 11.1% fall in October, thanks in part to strong Thanksgiving holiday traffic.

IATA: Aircraft cabins remain a very low risk environment for contracting COVID-19

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) clarified that the aircraft cabin remains a very low risk environment for contracting COVID-19 even though Omicron appears to be more transmissible than other variants in all environments.

According to IATA’s Medical Advisor Dr. David Powell, factors that contribute to the very low risks include aircraft design characteristics (direction of air flow, rate of air exchange and filtration), the forward orientation of passengers while seated, well-enforced masking, and enhanced sanitary measures. The controlled nature of the aircraft cabin compared to other enclosed environments adds a further measure of protection, Dr. Powell noted.

Public health authorities have not suggested further measures for indoor environments as a result of Omicron; and IATA’s advice for travelers, including correctly wearing masks, is unchanged and even more important.

IATA: Government response to Omicron threatens emerging recovery

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in October 2021 with broad-based improvements in both domestic and international markets. It also warned that the imposition of travel bans by governments, against the advice of the WHO, could threaten the sector’s recovery.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to October 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in October 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 49.4% compared to October 2019. This was improved over the 53.3% fall recorded in September 2021, compared to two years earlier.
  • Domestic markets were down 21.6% compared to October 2019, bettering the 24.2% decline recorded in September versus September 2019.
  • International passenger demand in October was 65.5% below October 2019, compared to a 69.0% decline for September versus the 2019 period, with all regions showing improvement.

“October’s traffic performance reinforces that people will travel when they are permitted to. Unfortunately, government responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant are putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Air Passenger Market Detail- October 2021

 

OCT 2021
(% VS OCT 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100%
-49.4%
-41.2%
-11.5%
70.6%
Africa
1.9%
-60.1%
-50.0%
-14.2%
55.8%
Asia Pacific
38.6%
-66.4%
-56.5%
-18.6%
62.9%
Europe
23.7%
-45.3%
-36.6%
-11.8%
74.9%
Latin America
5.7%
-33.6%
-33.0%
-0.7%
80.9%
Middle East
7.4%
-59.0%
-47.8%
-15.7%
57.7%
North America
22.7%
-26.3%
-19.7%
-6.8%
76.9%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

Note: the seven domestic passenger markets for which broken-down data are avaiable for approximately 46% of global total RPKs and 84% of domestic RPKs.

Note: The total industry and regional growth rates are based on a constant sample of airlines combining reported data and estimates for missing observations.  Airline traffic is allocated according to the region in which the carrier is registered; it should not be considered as regional traffic.

International Passenger Markets

 

European carriers’ October international traffic declined 50.6% versus October 2019, much improved over the 56.5% drop in September compared to September 2019. Capacity dropped 41.3% and load factor fell 13.7 percentage points to 72.5%.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their October international traffic fall 92.8% compared to October 2019, fractionally improved over the 93.1% decline recorded for September 2021 compared to two years ago. Capacity dropped 83.8% and the load factor was down 44.0 percentage points to 35.7%, the lowest among regions by far.

Middle Eastern airlines had a 60.3% demand drop in October compared to October 2019, a huge jump over the 67.1% traffic drop recorded in September against September 2019. Capacity declined 49.1%, and load factor slipped 16.1 percentage points to 57.5%.

North American carriers experienced a 57.0% traffic drop in October versus the 2019 period, improved from a 61.4% decline in September 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 43.2%, and load factor fell 20.0 percentage points to 62.4%.

Latin American airlines saw a 55.1% drop in October traffic, compared to the same month in 2019. In September, traffic was down 61.4% compared to two years ago. October capacity fell 52.5% and load factor dropped 4.3 percentage points to 76.9%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 13th consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic fell 60.2% in October versus two years’ ago. Traffic in September was down 62.1% over the corresponding 2019 period. October capacity was down 49.0% and load factor declined 15.2 percentage points to 54.1%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

 

OCT 2021
(%VS OCT 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Domestic
54.2%
-21.6%
-14.6%
-6.9%
76.7%
Dom. Australia
0.7%
-81.0%
-70.6%
-29.6%
54.1%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-16.3%
-16.6%
0.3%
84.3%
Dom. China P.R.
19.9%
-25.7%
-9.7%
-15.1%
70.3%
Dom India
2.1%
27.0%
-21.0%
-6.4%
77.3%
Dom. Japan
1.4%
-49.3%
-29.3%
-21.9%
55.7%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
24.0%
23.7%
0.2%
84.9%
Dom. US
16.6%
-10.5%
7.3%
-2.9%
81.8%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

Note: the seven domestic passenger markets for which broken-down data are avaiable for approximately 46% of global total RPKs and 84% of domestic RPKs.

Note: The total industry and regional growth rates are based on a constant sample of airlines combining reported data and estimates for missing observations.  Airline traffic is allocated according to the region in which the carrier is registrated; it should not be considered as regional traffic.

India’s domestic market saw a 27.0% decline in October demand compared to October 2019 – greatly improved from a 40.5% fall in September following the easing of some control measures.

Russia’s October domestic traffic was up 24% compared to October 2019, which was deceleration from the 29.3% growth recorded in September 2021 over the two-year ago period, attributable to a strong wave of COVID-19 and the start of the winter travel season.

The Bottom Line

“The lifting of the US restrictions on travel from some 33 countries last month raised hopes that a surge in pent-up travel demand would buoy traffic over the coming Northern Hemisphere winter. But the emergence of the Omicron variant panicked many governments into once again restricting or entirely removing the freedom to travel—even though WHO clearly advised that ‘blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.’ The logic of the WHO advice was evident within days of Omicron’s identification in South Africa, with its presence already confirmed in all continents. The ill-advised travel bans are as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted,” said Walsh.

Last month, IATA released a Blueprint (pdf) to help guide governments in safely re-opening their borders with data-driven decision-making. Specifically, IATA urged governments to focus on three key areas:

  • Simplified health protocols
  • Digital solutions to process health credentials
  • COVID-19 measures proportionate to risk levels with a continuous review process

“Additionally, governments must address the terrible disparity in vaccination rates that has seen the developed world offering boosters at a time when less than 10% of the African continent is fully vaccinated,” said Walsh.

How will the new Omnicron variant affect air travel? IATA comments, WHO provides an update

IATA issued this statement on the new Omnicron variant from Africa:

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General following the recent emergence of the Omicron variant:

“Governments are responding to the risks of the new coronavirus variant in emergency mode causing fear among the traveling public. As quickly as possible we must use the experience of the last two years to move to a coordinated data-driven approach that finds safe alternatives to border closures and quarantine. Travel restrictions are not a long-term solution to control COVID variants.”

In other news, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for caution in response to a European Commission Recommendation that the EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) should only remain valid for up to nine months after the second vaccination dose, unless a booster jab is administered.

“The EU DCC is a great success in driving a common continent-wide approach to managing the COVID-19 health crisis and in facilitating the freedom of people to travel again. It underpins a fragile recovery in the travel and tourism sector. And it is critical that any changes to it have a joined-up approach that recognizes the impact of divergent policies by individual member states and promotes further harmonization across Europe,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.

Booster Shots

The critical issue is vaccine validity and the requirement for booster shots. As the immunity afforded by vaccination wears off, booster jabs are being increasingly offered to extend and strengthen people’s immune response. However, if booster shots are mandated to maintain the validity of the DCC, it is vital that states harmonize their approach to the length of time allowed between the point of full vaccination and administering the additional dose. The nine months proposed by the Commission could be insufficient. It would be better to delay this requirement until all states are offering booster jabs to all citizens, and for a twelve-month validity to give more time for people to access a booster dose, considering the differing national vaccination approaches being taken.

“The proposal to manage limitations on the validity of the DCC creates many potential problems. People who received the vaccine before March, including many health workers, will need to have accessed a booster by 11 January or may be unable to travel. Will EU states agree on a standardized time period? How will the requirement be harmonized with the many states that have developed COVID passes that are reciprocally recognized by the EU?
Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said booster shots should be prioritized for vulnerable groups that have not had a first dose, let alone a booster. Worldwide, the vaccine program still has a long way to go in many developing states and the focus should be on ensuring vaccine equity. Given that the majority of  air travelers are not in the most vulnerable groups, allowing a twelve-month time period before a booster is needed would be a more practical approach for travelers and a fairer approach for vaccine equity,” said Schvartzman.

Vaccine Recognition

A further element of concern is the Commission’s recommendation that travelers vaccinated with a non-EU approved vaccine should present a negative pre-departure PCR test. This will discourage travel from many parts of the world where infection rates are low, but the population have been vaccinated by WHO-approved vaccines which have yet to gain regulatory approval in the EU.

“Governments should prioritize policies that are simple, predictable and practical in order to ensure passengers regain confidence to travel and airlines confidence to reopen routes. The European Centre for Disease Control is explicit in its latest risk report that travel restrictions are unlikely to have any major impact on the timing or intensity of local epidemics*. We appreciate that authorities must remain vigilant, but discriminating among vaccines that have been approved by the WHO is a waste of resources and an unnecessary barrier to people’s freedom to travel,” said Schvartzman.

 

The WHO issued this update:

On November 26, 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).  This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. Here is a summary of what is currently known.

 

Current knowledge about Omicron 

Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.

TransmissibilityIt is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.

Severity of disease: It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.  Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.  There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.  Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.  All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.

 

Effectiveness of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection 

Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (ie, people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks.

Effectiveness of vaccines: WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.

Effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.

Effectiveness of current treatments:   Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will still be effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be assessed to see if they are still as effective given the changes to parts of the virus in the Omicron variant.

 

Studies underway

At the present time, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies currently underway or underway shortly include assessments of transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatments.

WHO encourages countries to contribute the collection and sharing of hospitalized patient data through the WHO COVID-19 Clinical Data Platform to rapidly describe clinical characteristics and patient outcomes.

More information will emerge in the coming days and weeks. WHO’s TAG-VE will continue to monitor and evaluate the data as it becomes available and assess how mutations in Omicron alter the behavior of the virus.

 

Recommended actions for countries 

As Omicron has been designated a Variant of Concern, there are several actions WHO recommends countries to undertake, including enhancing surveillance and sequencing of cases;  sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO; performing field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or public health and social measures.

Countries should continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approachThey should increase some public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in cases.  WHO is providing countries with support and guidance for both readiness and response.

In addition, it is vitally important that inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older persons, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics.  

 

Recommended actions for people 

The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 meter from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.  

WHO will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available, including following meetings of the TAG-VE. In addition, information will be available on WHO’s digital and social media platforms.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on UK measures:

IATA reports moderate rebound in September passenger demand

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a moderate rebound in air travel in September 2021 compared to August’s performance. This was driven by recovery in domestic markets, in particular China, where some travel curbs were lifted following the COVID-19 outbreaks in August. International demand, meanwhile, slipped slightly compared to the previous month.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to September 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in September 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 53.4% compared to September 2019. This marked an uptick from August, when demand was 56.0% below August 2019 levels.
  • Domestic markets were down 24.3% compared to September 2019, a significant improvement from August 2021, when traffic was down 32.6% versus two years ago. All markets showed improvement with the exception of Japan and Russia, although the latter remained in solid growth territory compared to 2019.
  • International passenger demand in September was 69.2% below September 2019, fractionally worse than the 68.7% decline recorded in August.

“September’s performance is a positive development but recovery in international traffic remains stalled amid continuing border closures and quarantine mandates. The recent US policy change to reopen travel from 33 markets for fully vaccinated foreigners from 8 November is a welcome, if long overdue, development. Along with recent re-openings in other key markets like Australia, Argentina, Thailand, and Singapore this should give a boost to the large-scale restoration of the freedom to travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

SEPT 2021
(%VS SEPT 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100%
-53.4%
-43.6%
-14.3%
67.6%
Africa
1.9%
-61.4%
-49.9%
-16.5%
56.0%
Asia Pacific
38.6%
-69.0%
-58.9%
-19.7%
60.5%
Europe
23.7%
-50.3%
-40.1%
-14.7%
71.9%
Latin America
5.7%
-39.4%
-35.7%
-4.6%
77.3%
Middle East
7.4%
-65.9%
-51.1%
-22.7%
52.4%
North America
22.7%
-30.5%
-20.8%
-10.1%
72.7%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

International Passenger Markets

European carriers’ September international traffic declined 56.9% versus September 2019, down 1 percentage point compared to the 55.9% decrease in August versus the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 46.3% and load factor fell 17.2 percentage points to 69.6%.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their September international traffic fall 93.2% compared to September 2019, virtually unchanged from the 93.4% drop registered in August 2021 versus August 2019 as the region continues to have the strictest border control measures. Capacity dropped 85.2% and the load factor was down 42.3 percentage points to 36.2%, easily the lowest among regions.

Middle Eastern airlines had a 67.1% demand drop in September compared to September 2019, slightly improved over the 68.9% decrease in August, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 52.6%, and load factor slipped 23.1 percentage points to 52.2%.

North American carriers experienced a 61.0% traffic drop in September versus the 2019 period, somewhat worsened over the 59.3% decline in August compared to August 2019. Capacity dropped 47.6%, and load factor fell 21.3 percentage points to 61.9%.

Latin American airlines saw a 61.3% drop in September traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, an upturn over the 62.6% decline in August compared to August 2019. September capacity fell 55.6% and load factor dropped 10.7 percentage points to 72.0%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 12th consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic fell 62.2% in September versus two years’ ago, almost 4 percentage points worse than the 58.5% decline in August compared to August 2019. September capacity was down 49.3% and load factor declined 18.4 percentage points to 53.7%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

SEPT 2021
(%VS SEPT 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Domestic
54.2%
-24.3%
-14.7%
-9.3%
73.0%
Dom. Australia
0.7%
-80.3%
-71.2%
-26.2%
56.2%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-17.3%
-16.8%
-0.5%
81.2%
Dom. China P.R.
19.9%
-26.2%
-10.5%
-14.6%
68.9%
Dom India
2.1%
-41.3%
-30.5%
-13.4%
72.4%
Dom. Japan
1.4%
-65.5%
-34.5%
-36.7%
40.9%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
29.3%
33.3%
-2.6%
83.1%
Dom. US
16.6%
-12.8%
-5.5%
-6.5%
76.1%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

Brazil’s domestic market sustained its gradual recovery amid positive vaccination progress. Traffic was down 17.3% compared to September 2019 – improved from a 20.7% fall in August.

Japan’s September domestic traffic was down 65.5%, worsened from a 59.2% decline in August versus August 2019, owing to the impact of restrictions.

The Bottom Line

“Each re-opening announcement seems to come with similar but different rules. We cannot let the recovery get bogged down in complication. The ICAO High Level Conference on COVID-19 agreed that harmonization should be a priority. The G20 declared a commitment to take action to support a recovery with seamless travel, sustainability, and digitalization. Now governments must put actions behind these words to realize simple and effective measures. People, jobs, businesses and economies are counting on real progress,” said Walsh.

IATA’s vision for safely re-establishing global connectivity is based on five key principles:

  • Vaccines should be available to all as quickly as possible
  • Vaccinated travelers should not face any barriers to travel
  • Testing should enable those without access to vaccines to travel without quarantine
  • Antigen tests are the key to cost-effective and convenient testing regimes, and
  • Governments should pay for testing, so it does not become an economic barrier to travel

Video:

Six more airlines implement IATA Travel Pass

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that Etihad Airways, Jazeera Airways, Jetstar, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian, will implement IATA Travel Pass in a phased rollout across the airlines’ networks. These five airlines join Emirates Airline as IATA Travel Pass implementation pioneers.

The announcement, made on the sidelines of the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting being held in Boston, follows eleven months of extensive testing by 76 airlines.

IATA: Governments’ response to Delta variant slams August domestic traffic demand

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel decelerated in August compared to July, as government actions in response to concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant cut deeply into domestic travel demand.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to August 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in August 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 56.0% compared to August 2019. This marked a slowdown from July, when demand was 53.0% below July 2019 levels.
  • This was entirely driven by domestic markets, which were down 32.2% compared to August 2019, a major deterioration from July 2021, when traffic was down 16.1% versus two years ago. The worst impact was in China, while India and Russia were the only large markets to show a month-to-month improvement compared to July 2021.
  • International passenger demand in August was 68.8% below August 2019, which was an improvement compared to the 73.1% decline recorded in July. All regions showed improvement, which was attributable to growing vaccination rates and less stringent international travel restrictions in some regions.

“August results reflect the impact of concerns over the Delta variant on domestic travel, even as international travel continued on a snail’s pace toward a full recovery that cannot happen until governments restore the freedom to travel. In that regard, the recent US announcement to lift travel restrictions from early November on fully vaccinated travelers is very good news and will bring certainty to a key market. But challenges remain, September bookings indicate a deterioration in international recovery. That’s bad news heading into the traditionally slower fourth quarter,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

AUGUST 2021
(% VS AUGUST 2019)
WORLD SHARE​1 RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100.0%
-56.0%
-46.2%
-15.6%
70.0%
Africa
1.9%
-58.0%
-50.4%
-11.5%
64.0%
Asia Pacific
38.6%
-78.3%
-66.5%
-29.6%
54.5%
Europe
23.7%
-48.7%
-38.7%
-14.4%
74.6%
Latin America
5.7%
-42.0%
-37.7%
-5.8%
77.4%
Middle East
7.4%
-68.0%
-53.1%
-26.0%
56.0%
North America
22.7%
-30.3%
-22.7%
-8.6%
78.6%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

International Passenger Markets

 

European carriers’ August international traffic declined 55.9% versus August 2019, significantly bettering the 63.2% decrease in July compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 45.0% and load factor fell 17.7 percentage points to 71.5%.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their August international traffic fall 93.4% compared to August 2019, barely improved over the 94.5% drop registered in July 2021 versus July 2019 as the region continues to have the strictest border control measures. Capacity dropped 85.7% and the load factor was down 44.9 percentage points to 37.9%, by far the lowest among regions.

Middle Eastern airlines had a 69.3% demand drop in August compared to August 2019, improved upon the 73.6% decrease in July, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 55.0%, and load factor deteriorated 26.2 percentage points to 56.2%.

North American carriers experienced a 59.0% traffic drop in August versus the 2019 period, much improved on the 61.7% decline in July compared to July 2019. Capacity sank 48.5%, and load factor dipped 18.0 percentage points to 70.3%.

Latin American airlines saw a 63.1% drop in August traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, improved over the 68.3% decline in July compared to July 2019. August capacity fell 57.3% and load factor dropped 11.4 percentage points to 72.6%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the eleventh consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic fell 58.5% in August versus two years’ ago, somewhat improved over the 60.4% decline in July compared to July 2019. August capacity was down 50.1% and load factor declined 12.7% to 63.0%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

AUGUST 2021
(%VS AUGUST 2019)
WORLD SHARE1​​ RPK ASK PLF (%-PT)​2 PLF (LEVEL)​3
Domestic
54.2%
-32.2%
-22.2%
-11.0%
74.7%
Dom. Australia
0.7%
-83.3%
-75.1%
-27.1%
54.9%
Dom. Brazil
1.6%
-20.7%
-18.2%
-2.6%
79.9%
Dom. China P.R.
19.9%
-57.0%
-36.8%
-28.1%
59.5%
Dom India
2.1%
-44.8%
-34.7%
-13.3%
72.1%
Dom. Japan
1.4%
-59.8%
-29.4%
-34.9%
46.3%
Dom. Russian Fed.
3.4%
31.9%
32.6%
-0.5%
90.5%
Dom. US
16.6%
-13.2%
-7.1%
-5.7%
80.9%

1) % of industry RPKs in 2020    2) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019    3) Load Factor Level

China’s domestic traffic dropped 57.0% compared to August 2019 – a huge deterioration from the 2.5% fall in July. However, overall cases were low, and outbreaks were mostly under control by the end of August, suggesting numbers will improve in September.

India’s domestic traffic reversed the trend, as demand fell 44.8% in August, improved from a 58.9% decline in July versus July 2019, owing to positive trends in new cases and vaccination.

The Bottom Line

“The rapid slowdown in the domestic traffic recovery in August, owing to a spike in the Delta variant shows how exposed air travel continues to be to the cycles of COVID-19. For governments that should send two messages. The first is that this is not the time to step away from continuing support of the industry, both financial and regulatory. The second is the need to apply a risk-based approach to managing borders–as passengers are already doing in making their travel decisions,” said Walsh.

Next week, leaders of the global aviation community will gather in Boston at the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, 3-5 October. “The AGM provides a powerful vote of confidence in the safety of international air travel and the health protocols that have now been in place for up to 18 months. I’ve said it before: virtual meetings are no substitute for the value delivered through the opportunity to meet face-to-face. The AGM will provide a powerful reminder of this fact,” said Walsh.

IATA: Air cargo up 7.7% in August versus pre-COVID levels; capacity lagging demand

IATA issued this report:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released August 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that demand continued its strong growth trend but pressure on capacity is rising.

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons below are to August 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 7.7% compared to August 2019 (8.6% for international operations). Overall growth remains strong compared to the long-term average growth trend of around 4.7%.
  • The pace of growth slowed slightly compared to July, which saw demand increase 8.8% (against pre-COVID-19 levels).
  • Cargo capacity recovery paused in August, down 12.2% compared to August 2019 (‑13.2% for international operations). In month-on-month terms, capacity fell by 1.6% – the largest drop since January 2021.

Economic conditions continue to support air cargo growth but are slightly weaker than in the previous months indicating that global manufacturing growth has peaked:

  • The August manufacturing output component of the Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs) was 51.9, indicating a short-term boost to demand if those orders are shipped by air. This was a decline from 54.4 in July.
  • The August new export orders component of the PMIs was favorable for air cargo, despite being less supportive than in the previous months. Expansion continued at the global level, however, there was contraction in emerging economies.
  • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail season. This is positive for air cargo, however further capacity constraints put this at risk.

“Air cargo demand had another strong month in August, up 7.7% compared to pre-COVID levels. Many of the economic indicators point to a strong year-end peak season. With international travel still severely depressed, there are fewer passenger planes offering belly capacity for cargo. And supply chain bottlenecks could intensify as businesses continue to ramp up production,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

AUGUST 2021
% VS AUGUST 2019
WORLDSHARE1 CTK ACTK CLF(%-PT)​2 CLF(LEVEL)​3
Total Market
100%
7.7%
-12.2%
10.0%
54.2%
Africa
2.0%
32.4%
-3.8%
11.8%
43.0%
Asia Pacific
32.6%
-2.1%
-28.1%
18.5%
69.8%
Europe
22.3%
6.3%
-12.1%
9.9%
57.5%
Latin America
2.4%
-13.2%
-20.0%
3.2%
40.4%
Middle East
13.0%
15.5%
-5.2%
9.4%
52.9%
North America
27.8%
19.3%
0.7%
6.8%
43.7%

(1) % of industry CTKs in 2020   (2) Change in load factor vs same month in 2019    (3) Load factor level

August Regional Performance 

 

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their international air cargo volumes increase 3.0% in August 2021 compared to the same month in 2019.This was a slowdown in demand compared to the previous month’s 4.4% expansion. Demand is being affected by an easing in growth momentum in key activity indicators in Asia, and by congested supply chains especially on Within Asia and Europe-Asia routes. International capacity is significantly constrained in the region, down 21.7% vs. August 2019.

North American carriers posted an 18% increase in international cargo volumes in August 2021 compared to August 2019. New export orders and demand for faster shipping times are underpinning the North American performance. The downside risk from capacity constraints is high; international cargo capacity remains restricted and many of the key air cargo hubs are reporting severe congestion, including Los Angeles and Chicago. International capacity decreased 6.6%.

European carriers saw a 6% increase in international cargo volumes in August 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was on a par with July’s performance. Manufacturing activity, orders and long supplier delivery times remain favorable to air cargo demand. International capacity decreased 13.6%.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced an 15.4% rise in international cargo volumes in August 2021 versus August 2019, an improvement compared to the previous month (13.4%). The large Middle East–Asia trade lanes continue to post strong performance. International capacity decreased 5.1%.

Latin American carriers reported a decline of 14% in international cargo volumes in August compared to the 2019 period, which was the weakest performance of all regions. Capacity remains significantly constrained in the region, with international capacity decreasing 27.1% in August, the largest fall of any region.

African airlines’ saw international cargo volumes increase by 33.9% in August, the largest increase of all regions. Investment flows along the Africa-Asia route continue to drive the regional outcomes with volumes on the route up 26.4% over two years ago. International capacity decreased 2.1%.

IATA: Blocked airline funds could slow recovery

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate close to nearly $1 billion in blocked funds from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.

“Governments are preventing nearly $1 billion of airline revenues from being repatriated. This contravenes international conventions and could slow the recovery of travel and tourism in affected markets as the airline industry struggles to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Airlines will not be able to provide reliable connectivity if they cannot rely on local revenues to support operations. That is why it is critical for all governments to prioritize ensuring that funds can be repatriated efficiently. Now is not the time to score an ‘own goal’ by putting vital air connectivity at risk,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Approximately $963 million in airline funds are being blocked from repatriation in nearly 20 countries. Four countries: Bangladesh ($146.1 million), Lebanon ($175.5 million), Nigeria ($143.8 million), and Zimbabwe ($142.7 million), account for over 60% of this total, although there has been positive progress in reducing blocked funds in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe of late.

“We encourage governments to work with industry to resolve the issues that are preventing airlines from repatriating funds. This will enable aviation to provide the connectivity needed to sustain jobs and energize economies as they recover from COVID-19,” said Walsh.