Air passenger demand performance for June – announced this week by Iata – showed a marginal improvement in both international and domestic air travel markets.
Demand, however, remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels owing to international travel restrictions.
The Iata data shows total demand for air travel in June (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 60.1% compared with June 2019. That was a small improvement over the 62.9% decline recorded in May 2021 versus May 2019.
International passenger demand in June was 80.9% below June 2019, an improvement from the 85.4% decline recorded in May 2021 versus two years ago. All regions, with the exception of Asia-Pacific, contributed to the slightly higher demand.
For international travel, African airlines’ traffic fell 68.2% in June versus the same month two years ago, an improvement from the 71.5% decline in May compared with May 2019. June capacity contracted 60.0% versus June 2019, and load factor declined 14.5 percentage points to 56.5%.
Total domestic demand was down 22.4% versus pre-crisis levels (June 2019), a slight gain over the 23.7% decline recorded in May 2021 versus the 2019 period.
“We are seeing movement in the right direction, particularly in some key domestic markets. But the situation for international travel is nowhere near where we need to be. June should be the start of peak season, but airlines were carrying just 20% of 2019 levels. That’s not a recovery, it’s a continuing crisis caused by government inaction,” said Iata Director General, Willie Walsh.
He reiterated earlier statements that, for air passenger demand to improve, a risk-managed re-connecting of the world was needed.
“Vaccinated travellers should have their freedom of movement returned. An efficient testing regime can sufficiently manage risks for those unable to be vaccinated. This is the underlying message in the latest WHO travel guidance,” said Walsh, noting that some governments were moving in this direction.
“The UK, Singapore and Canada have indicated timelines to open their borders without quarantine for vaccinated travelers. The European Commission has recommended that its member states adopt travel protocols that are closely aligned with the WHO – including testing for unvaccinated travellers. Similar moves to reopen borders in line with the WHO guidance by the US – leaders in vaccinating their populations – would give critical impetus to demonstrating that we can live and travel while managing the risks of COVID-19,” he said.