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Air travel demand dips 62.2 per cent despite global rebound

By Wole Oyebade
04 November 2021   |   3:07 am
African airlines have recorded a 62.2 per cent decline in passenger traffic demand despite a moderate improvement globally.

Air travel

African airlines have recorded a 62.2 per cent decline in passenger traffic demand despite a moderate improvement globally.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), yesterday, announced a moderate rebound in air travel in September 2021 compared to August’s performance.

The surge was driven by a 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.

African airlines’ traffic fell 62.2 per cent in September as against two years ago; almost four percentage points worse than the 58.5 per cent decline in August compared to August 2019. September capacity was down 49.3 per cent and load factor declined 18.4 percentage points to 53.7 per cent.

Total demand for air travel in September 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 53.4 per cent compared to September 2019. This marked an uptick from August, when demand was 56.0 per cent below August 2019 levels.

International passenger demand in September was 69.2 per cent below September 2019, fractionally worse than the 68.7 per cent decline recorded in August.

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, said September’s performance was a positive development but recovery in international traffic remains stalled amid continuing border closures and quarantine mandates.

“The recent U.S. policy change to reopen travel from 33 markets for fully vaccinated foreigners from November eight, 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,” Walsh said.

European carriers’ September international traffic declined 56.9 per cent versus September 2019, down to one percentage point compared to the 55.9 per cent decrease in August versus the same month in 2019.

Capacity dropped 46.3 per cent and load factor fell 17.2 percentage points to 69.6 per cent.

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

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

“Each re-opening announcement seems to come with similar but different rules. We cannot let the recovery get bogged down in complications. 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 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,” Walsh said.