The International Air Transport Association has identified far-reaching government-imposed travel restrictions as a major factor delaying recovery in international markets.
The global airline body said both international and domestic travel demand showed significant momentum in July 2021 compared to June, but pointed out that demand remained far above the pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
IATA which represents some 290 airlines comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic made this known in its latest passenger traffic report.
“Extensive government-imposed travel restrictions continue to delay recovery in international markets,” the airline body said in a statement, stating that total demand for air travel in July 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 53.1 per cent compared to July 2019.
According to the statement, the July passenger results reflect people’s eagerness to travel during the Northern Hemisphere summer.
IATA said that domestic traffic was back to 85 per cent of the pre-crisis levels, but pointed out that international demand has only recovered just over a quarter of 2019 volumes.
“The problem is border control measures. Government decisions are not being driven by data, particularly with respect to the efficacy of vaccines. People traveled where they could, and that was primarily in domestic markets. A recovery of international travel needs governments to restore the freedom to travel. At a minimum, vaccinated travelers should not face restrictions. That would go a long way to reconnecting the world and reviving the travel and tourism sectors,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
The report gave further details of the international and domestic passenger traffic.
“International passenger demand in July was 73.6 per cent below July 2019, bettering the 80.9 per cent decline recorded in June 2021 versus two years ago. All regions showed improvement and North American airlines posted the smallest decline in international RPKs (July traffic data from Africa was not available).
“Total domestic demand was down 15.6 per cent versus pre-crisis levels (July 2019), compared to the 22.1 per cent decline recorded in June over June 2019. Russia posted the best result for another month, with RPKs up 28.9 per cent vs. July 2019,” the statement read in part.
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The report gave traffic report in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America.
According to IATA, European carriers saw their July international traffic decline 64.2 per cent versus July 2019, significantly bettering the 77 per cent decrease in June compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 53.8 per cent and load factor fell 19.9 percentage points to 69 per cent.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ July international traffic fell 94.2 per cent compared to July 2019, barely improved over the 94.7 per cent drop registered in June 2021 versus June 2019 as the region continues to have the strictest border control measures. Capacity dropped 86 per cent and the load factor was down 48.2 percentage points to 34.3 per cent, by far the lowest among regions.
Middle Eastern airlines posted a 74.5 per cent demand drop in July compared to July 2019, surpassing the 79.2 per cent decrease in June, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 59.5 per cent, and load factor deteriorated 30.1 percentage points to 51.3 per cent.
According to IATA, North American carriers’ July demand fell 62.1 per cent compared to the 2019 period, much improved on the 69.4 per cent decline in June versus two years ago. Capacity sank 52 per cent, and load factor dipped 18.6 percentage points to 69.3 per cent.
Latin American airlines saw a 66.3 per cent drop in July traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, improved over the 69.8 per cent decline in June compared to June 2019.
July capacity fell 60.5 per cent and load factor dropped 12.6 percentage points to 72.9 per cent, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the ninth consecutive month.
Australia’s domestic traffic sank further from a 51.4 per cent decline in June versus the same month in 2019, to a 75.4 per cent decline in July versus two years ago, amid stricter domestic lockdowns in response to a spike in the Delta variant.
The United States domestic traffic continued to recover in July, and was down just 7.7 per cent compared to July 2019, improved from a 14 per cent decline in June versus June 2019.