Wednesday, 27th September 2023

Airlines near pre-pandemic traffic demand amid summer chaos

By Wole Oyebade
11 August 2022   |   2:39 am
World airlines have recorded a spike in passager traffic demand this summer season, despite chaotic scenes lately seen at major airports.

[FILES] Airplane

World airlines have recorded a spike in passager traffic demand this summer season, despite chaotic scenes lately seen at major airports.

The airlines, under the aegis of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), announced passenger data for June 2022, showing that the recovery in air travel remains strong and nearing the pre-pandemic level.

Global aviation lately witnessed one of its worst chaotic scenes in history over staff shortages and infrastructural deficits at major international airports.

The airport managers that have been struggling to cope with the summer demand are compelled to ration daily capacity through the pre-pandemic slot use rules, which in turn puts airlines’ scheduled operations in a complete mess.

That notwithstanding, total traffic in June 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was up 76.2 per cent compared to June 2021, primarily propelled by the ongoing strong recovery in international traffic. Globally, traffic is now at 70.8 per cent of pre-crisis levels.

Domestic traffic for June 2022 was up 5.2 per cent compared to the year-ago period. Strong improvements in most markets, combined with the easing of some Omicron-related lockdown restrictions in the Chinese domestic market, contributed to the result. Total June 2022 domestic traffic was at 81.4 per cent of the June 2019 level.

International traffic rose 229.5 per cent versus June 2021. The lifting of travel restrictions in most parts of Asia-Pacific is contributing to the recovery. June 2022 international RPKs reached 65.0 per cent of June 2019 levels.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said demand for air travel remains strong. “After two years of lockdown and border restrictions people are taking advantage, of the freedom to travel wherever they can,” Walsh said.

According to regional performance, African airlines had a 103.6 per cent rise in June RPKs versus a year ago. June 2022 capacity was up 61.9 per cent and load factor climbed 15.2 percentage points to 74.2 per cent, the lowest among regions. International traffic between Africa and neighbouring regions is close to pre-pandemic levels.

Asia-Pacific airlines had a 492.0 per cent rise in June traffic compared to June 2021. Capacity rose 138.9 per cent and the load factor was up 45.8 percentage points to 76.7 per cent. The region is now relatively open to foreign visitors and tourism which is helping foster the recovery.

European carriers’ June traffic rose 234.4 per cent versus June 2021. Capacity rose 134.5 per cent, and load factor climbed 25.8 percentage points to 86.3 per cent. International traffic within Europe is above pre-pandemic levels in seasonally adjusted terms.

Walsh added that with the Northern Hemisphere summer travel season now fully underway, predictions that the lifting of travel restrictions would unleash a torrent of pent-up travel demand are being borne out.

“At the same time, meeting that demand has proved challenging and likely will continue to be so. All the more reason to continue to show flexibility to the slot use rules. The European Commission’s intent to return to the longstanding 80-20 requirement is premature.

“Just look at the issues that airlines and their passengers at some hub airports are being confronted with. These airports are unable to support their declared capacity even with the current 64 per cent slot threshold and have extended recent passenger caps until the end of October. Flexibility is still essential in support of a successful recovery.

“By capping passenger numbers, airports are preventing airlines from benefiting from the strong demand. Heathrow Airport has tried to blame airlines for the disruption. However, Service Level Performance data for the first six months of this year show that they have failed miserably to provide basic services and missed their Passenger Security service target by a massive 14.3 points. Data for June has not yet been published but is expected to show the lowest level of service by the airport since records began,” Walsh said.

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