Category Archives: IATA

IATA: War in Ukraine and air transport

From IATA:

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the consequent unfolding humanitarian crisis has stunned the world.

IATA Director General, Willie Walsh has unequivocally condemned the war saying: “I am appalled by the unlawful invasion of Ukraine by Russia and stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people under siege.”

The war in Ukraine has affected aviation in many ways. First, it is helpful to understand pre-war Ukrainian and Russian traffic.

  • Ukraine accounts for 3.3% of total air passenger traffic in Europe, and 0.8% of total traffic globally
  • Russian domestic traffic accounts for 4.5% of global RPKs (revenue passenger kilometers)
  • International air passengers between Russia and Europe accounted for 5.7% of total European traffic in 2021

Even though a relatively small portion of global traffic directly involved Russia or Ukraine, the war and associated sanctions have global implications for airlines and the work of IATA.

 

IATA’s settlement systems

The outbreak of war has meant the complete closure of air travel to/from/within Ukraine. And connectivity between Russia and the rest of the world has been dramatically reduced through airspace closures. This has presented a challenge to IATA’s settlement systems, which process transactions between airlines and travel agents.

The IATA settlement systems normally facilitate the transfer of funds from ticket sales to airlines, but in these extraordinary times the focus is on processing refunds for cancelled or altered travel plans. This affects the customers of some 140 airlines participating in IATA’s Russian BSP (Billing and Settlement Plan) as well as thousands of travel agents worldwide. Processing these refunds has been even more challenging due to sanctions.

Since sanctions were announced, IATA has vetted the participants in its settlement systems and the financial institutions used by those participants. The situation is extremely fast-moving, but IATA has extensive experience in dealing with sanctions and is committed to ensuring that consumer refunds (for tickets purchased within IATA systems) are processed efficiently and within the limits of applicable sanctions.

IATA’s settlement systems have also seen shifts in demand characteristics for countries neighboring Ukraine. While there has been a drop for inbound demand, there has been an uptick in bookings for outbound flights as refugees move by air to locations farther afield.

 

Operations

The enormous land mass of Russia means large detours for many airlines that served destinations requiring Russian overflight. Measured in RPKs, this affects over 10% of pre-COVID-19 international travel volumes (RPK basis), including travel from Europe to Asia (4.5%), North America to Asia (3.0%) and North America to the Middle East (4.0%).

As demand is still recovering from COVID-19 restrictions, the actual number of travelers facing longer journey times is limited. But this will increase rapidly as more Asian markets relax restrictions and encourage air travel.

IATA is working closely with authorities and airlines to share information so the re-routings can be well-coordinated. With current low levels of traffic, this has not yet created bottlenecks, but that will need careful management as more of Asia re-opens to travel and volumes pick-up.

 

Slots

Together with the airspace closures and other restrictions, this will doubtless affect slots at key airports worldwide. Many will go unused, and others will be affected by rescheduling and longer flight times.

Maximum flexibility is essential to minimize disruption and enable airlines to operate as much of their planned schedule as possible. IATA is working closely with the Worldwide Airport (Slot) Coordinator Group to ensure such flexibility and to share information on schedule updates among aviation stakeholders and passengers as quickly as possible.

 

Safety

One area that cannot be compromised, regardless of the circumstances, is safety.

IATA has a long-standing policy of opposing sanctions that could see a degradation of aviation safety, such as bans on the export of spare parts for aircraft. Banning the export of these items could impact aviation safety for all aircraft operating into or transiting over or near Russian airspace. This includes, for example, aircraft that may need to divert to Russian airports in an emergency.

 

Oil Price

Finally, the war has caused huge volatility in the oil price.

“When we made our most recent industry financial forecast last autumn, we expected the airline industry to lose $11.6 billion in 2022 with Brent crude at $67/barrel and fuel accounting for 20% of costs,” says Walsh. “The oil price has spiked to near $130/barrel. And it has been volatile within the $95–$110 range for a month. As fuel is an airline’s largest variable cost, the absorbing such a massive price hike just as the industry is struggling to emerge from the two-year COVID-19 crisis is a huge challenge. If the oil price stays that high, then over time, it is reasonable to expect that it will be reflected in airline yields.”

It is difficult to predict how this tragic war will play out, but the implications for aviation globally are significant even if the direct market impact is limited.

“Aviation promotes peace and freedom by bringing people together,” concludes Walsh. “But that peace has been shattered, the human cost of which is horrifying. My heart goes out to all the people of Ukraine, including industry partners and colleagues.”

A statement on Ukraine from IATA’s Willie Walsh

“I am appalled by the unlawful invasion of Ukraine by Russia and stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people under siege.

“Aviation promotes peace and freedom by bringing people together. But these last days have seen peace shattered, the human cost of which is horrifying.

My heart goes out to all the people of Ukraine, including industry partners and colleagues.” Willie Walsh, IATA DG

IATA calls for the accelerated easing of travel restrictions

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged governments to accelerate relaxation of travel restrictions as COVID-19 continues to evolve from the pandemic to endemic stage. IATA called for removing all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result, removing travel bans, and accelerating the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travelers pose no greater risk for COVID-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

“With the experience of the Omicron variant, there is mounting scientific evidence and opinion opposing the targeting of travelers with restrictions and country bans to control the spread of COVID-19. The measures have not worked. Today Omicron is present in all parts of the world. That’s why travel, with very few exceptions, does not increase the risk to general populations. The billions spent testing travelers would be far more effective if allocated to vaccine distribution or strengthening health care systems,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Evidence

A recently published study by Oxera and Edge Health (1) demonstrated the extremely limited impact of travel restrictions on controlling the spread of Omicron. The study found that:

  • If the UK’s extra measures (2) with respect to Omicron had been in place from the beginning of November (prior to the identification of the variant), the peak of the Omicron wave would have been delayed by just five days with 3% fewer cases.
  • The absence of any testing measures for travelers would have seen the Omicron wave peak seven days earlier with an overall 8% increase in cases.
  • Now that Omicron is highly prevalent in the UK, if all travel testing requirements were removed there would be no impact on Omicron case numbers or hospitalizations in the UK.

“While the study is specific to the UK, it is clear that travel restrictions in any part of the world have had little impact on the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. The UK, France and Switzerland have recognized this and are among the first to begin removing travel measures. More governments need to follow their lead. Accelerating the removal of travel restrictions will be a major step towards living with the virus,” said Walsh.

With respect to travel bans, last week, the WHO Emergency Committee confirmed their recommendation to “Lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by States. The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time.

What happens when COVID-19 is confirmed as endemic?

All indications point to COVID-19 becoming an endemic condition—one that humankind now has the tools (including vaccination and therapeutics) to live and travel with, bolstered by growing population immunity.

This aligns with the advice from public health experts to shift the policy focus from an individual’s health status towards policies focusing on population-wide protection. It is important that governments and the travel industry are well-prepared for the transition and ready to remove the burden of measures that disrupt travel.

“The current situation of travel restrictions is a mess. There is one problem—COVID-19. But there seem to be more unique solutions to managing travel and COVID-19 than there are countries to travel to. Indeed research from the Migration Policy Institute has counted more than 100,000 travel measures around the world that create complexity for passengers, airlines and governments to manage. We have two years of experience to guide us on a simplified and coordinated path to normal travel when COVID-19 is endemic. That normality must recognize that travelers, with very few exceptions, will present no greater risk than exists in the general population. And that’s why travelers should not be subject to any greater restrictions than are applied to the general community,” said Walsh.

Vaccination Priorities

Mutually recognized policies on vaccination will be critical as we approach the endemic phase. Barrier-free travel is a potent incentive for vaccination. The sustainability of this incentive must not be compromised by vaccine policies that complicate travel or divert vaccine resources from where they can do the most good. Issues to address include:

  • Accepted vaccines: There is no universal recognition for all vaccines on the WHO Emergency Use list. This raises a barrier to travel as people have little choice on the range of vaccines available in their country.
  • Validity: There is no alignment on the length of vaccine validity. This will become a barrier to travel as eligibility for boosters is controlled by national policies. Unduly short validity periods that effectively require air passengers to get regular booster jabs to travel internationally will consume resources that could support primary vaccination in the developing world and booster doses for the most vulnerable. It is reported that the WHO’s Chief Scientist called for booster doses to be used “to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying. Those are […] elderly populations, immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers.”
  • Distribution priorities: The calls of WHO and health experts for vaccine equity are not universally prioritized. Only half the states in Africa have been able to vaccinate more than 10% of their populations while many developed countries are reducing vaccination validity and considering second rounds of boosters. This creates a barrier to travel and strains testing resources in parts of the world where vaccine distribution is less advanced.

“Urgent consideration is needed for several critical concerns regarding vaccines. While Europe is aligning around a nine-month validity period for primary vaccinations, this is not universal. And booster shot validity has not been addressed. As the first quarter of the year is key to bookings for the peak-northern summer travel season, it is important to provide certainty to potential travelers as early as possible. Governments have declared intentions to support a travel recovery. Addressing questions on vaccination validity is a key element,” said Walsh.

Industry and Governments Finding Solutions Together

In October, the Ministerial Declaration of the ICAO High-level Conference on COVID-19 called for “one vision for aviation recovery.” IATA followed-up by publishing From Restart to Recovery in November. It is a blueprint for reconnecting the world following key principles of simplicity, predictability and practicality.

“The over-reaction of many governments to Omicron proved the blueprint’s key point—the need for simple, predictable and practical means of living with the virus that don’t constantly default to de-connecting the world. We have seen that targeting disproportionate measures at travelers has economic and social costs but very limited public health benefits. We must aim at a future where international travel faces no greater restriction than visiting a shop, attending a public gathering or riding the bus,” said Walsh.

IATA Travel Pass

The successful rollout of the IATA Travel Pass continues with a growing number of airlines already using it in daily operations to support the validation of health credentials for travel.

“Whatever the rules are for vaccination requirements, the industry will be able to manage them with digital solutions, the leader of which is the IATA Travel Pass. It’s a matured solution being implemented across a growing number of global networks,” said Walsh.

IATA: Strong December performance contributes to stellar year for air cargo in 2021, Year-on-year demand up 18.7%

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing that full-year demand for air cargo increased by 6.9% in 2021, compared to 2019 (pre-covid levels) and 18.7% compared to 2020 following a strong performance in December 2021. This was the second biggest improvement in year-on-year demand since IATA started to monitor cargo performance in 1990 (behind 2010’s 20.6% gain), outpacing the 9.8% rise in global goods trade by 8.9 percentage points.

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 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Global demand in 2021, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 6.9 % compared to 2019 (7.4% for international operations).
  • Capacity in 2021, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), was 10.9% below 2019 (-12.8% for international operations). Capacity remains constrained with bottlenecks at key hubs.
  • Improvements were demonstrated in December; global demand was 8.9% above 2019 levels (9.4% for international operations). This was a significant improvement from the 3.9% increase in November and the best performance since April 2021 (11.4%). Global capacity was 4.7% below 2019 levels (‑6.5% for international operations).
  • The lack of available capacity contributed to increased yields and revenues, providing support to airlines and some long-haul passenger services in the face of collapsed passenger revenues. In December 2021, rates were almost 150% above 2019 levels[1].
  • Economic conditions continue to support air cargo growth.
    • Global goods trade rose 7.7% in November (latest month of data), compared to pre-crisis levels. Global industrial production was up 4.0% over the same period.
    • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low. This is positive for air cargo as manufacturers turn to air cargo to rapidly meet demand.
    • The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of sea-container shipping remains favorable.
    • The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in many advanced economies has created strong demand for PPE shipments, which are usually carried by air.
  • Supply chain issues that slowed the pace of growth in November remain as headwinds:
    • Labor shortages, partly due to employees being in quarantine, insufficient storage space at some airports and processing backlogs continue to put pressure on supply chains.
    • The December global Supplier Delivery Time Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was at 38. While values below 50 are normally favorable for air cargo, in current conditions it points to delivery times lengthening because of supply bottlenecks.

“Air cargo had a stellar year in 2021. For many airlines, it provided a vital source of revenue as passenger demand remained in the doldrums due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Growth opportunities however were lost due to the pressures of labor shortages and constraints across the logistics system. Overall, economic conditions do point towards a strong 2022,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

AIR CARGO YEAR TO DATE DEVELOPMENTS
(JAN-DEC 2021)
CTK ACTK CLF(%-PT)​2 CLF(LEVEL)​3
Total Market
6.9%
-10.9%
9.3%
56.1%
Africa
10.2%
-16.1%
11.4%
47.6%
Asia Pacific
0.2%
-18.0%
11.7%
64.0%
Europe
3.7%
-16.5%
12.5%
64.4%
Latin America
-15.4%
-32.6%
9.0%
44.1%
Middle East
10.5%
-10.1%
10.7%
57.4%
North America
19.8%
4.0%
6.0%
45.5%

December saw a relief in supply chain issues that enabled an acceleration of cargo growth. “Some relief on supply chain constraints occurred naturally in December as volumes decreased after peak shipping activity ended in advance of the Christmas holiday. This freed capacity to accommodate front-loading of some Lunar New Year shipments to avoid potential disruptions to flight schedules during the Winter Olympic games. And overall December cargo performance was assisted by additional belly-hold capacity as airlines accommodated an expected year-end boost to travel. As shortages of labor and storage capacity remain, governments must keep a sharp focus on supply chain constraints to protect the economic recovery,” said Walsh.

Regional Performance

2021 Regional Performance

Strong variations were evident in the regional performance of air cargo in 2021 compared to 2019. North American carriers were the strongest performers, reporting an annual increase in international demand of 20.2%. Middle East and African carriers also reported double digit growth in international demand in 2021 (10.6% and 11.3%, respectively) compared to 2019. Asia-Pacific and European carriers saw international demand rise 3.6% in 2021 compared to 2019. And Latin American carriers were the only ones to record a contraction in international demand of 15.2% compared to 2019.

Asia-Pacific airlines reported a rise in international demand of 3.6% in 2021 compared to 2019 and a fall in international capacity of 17.1%. In December airlines in the region posted an 8.8% increase in international demand compared to 2019. Demand for goods manufactured in the region remains strong, including PPE. International capacity remained constrained in December down 10% compared to the same month in 2019.

North American carriers posted a 20.2% increase in international demand in 2021 compared to 2019 and a growth in international capacity of 0.2%. The region was the only one to record a growth in capacity in 2021 compared to 2019. In December carriers in the region posted an increase of 20.5% in international demand. The region’s carriers continue to benefit from strong consumer demand for goods. International capacity grew 6.2% compared to December 2019.

European carriers reported a 3.6% increase in international demand in 2021 compared to 2019 and a fall in capacity of 17.4%. In December airlines posted an increase in international demand of 6% compared to 2019. International capacity was down 5.9% in December 2021 compared to pre-crisis. European carriers have been significantly affected by supply chain and airport congestion and localized capacity constraints.

Middle Eastern carriers reported an increase in international demand of 10.6% in 2021 compared to 2019 and a fall in international capacity of 10.1%. Growth decelerated towards the year-end, partly driven by a downward trend in volumes on the large Middle East-Asia route. In December airlines in the region recorded a 5.7% increase in international demand compared to December 2019. International capacity decreased by 9.2% in December compared to the same month in 2019.

Latin American carriers reported a decline in international demand of 15.2% in 2021 compared to 2019 and a fall in capacity of 30.2%. Airlines registered in Latin America had a challenging year, as several were engaged in lengthy restructuring processes. That said, the restructuring processes are coming to an end, and December’s performance was the best of the year, with carriers in the region reporting a 2.9% decline in international demand compared to December 2019. This was a significant improvement on the 13.4% decline the previous month. Capacity remained heavily constrained in December, down 26.1% on pre-crisis levels.

African airlines saw international demand grow 11.3% in 2021 compared to 2019 and a fall in international capacity of 14.6%. Growth in the region has been dynamic for most of the year, driven by the strength of the Africa-Asia route. In December, international demand grew by 7.6%  with international capacity falling 19.4% as compared to the same month in 2019.

Video:

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

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