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Passenger traffic rebounds despite Russia-Ukrainian crisis

By Wole Oyebade
06 May 2022   |   2:54 am
Global airlines have recorded an upswing in passenger traffic recovery despite the effects of the Russia-Ukrainian crisis.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh

Global airlines have recorded an upswing in passenger traffic recovery despite the effects of the Russia-Ukrainian crisis.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in the latest market data, estimated that total traffic in March 2022 was up by 76.0 per cent compared to March 2021. Although that was lower than the 115.9 per cent rise in February year-over-year demand, volumes in March were the closest to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, at 41 per cent below.

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, said with barriers to travel coming down in most places, airlines are seeing the long-expected surge in pent-up demand finally being realised.

“Unfortunately, we are also seeing long delays at many airports with insufficient resources to handle the growing numbers. This must be addressed urgently to avoid frustrating consumer enthusiasm for air travel,” Walsh said.

African airlines had a 91.8 per cent rise in March versus a year ago. That was an improvement compared to the 70.8 per cent year-over-year increase recorded in February 2022 compared to the same month in 2021.

Air travel demand is challenged by low vaccination rates on the continent as well as impacts from rising inflation. March 2022 capacity was up 49.9 per cent and load factor climbed 14.1 percentage points to 64.5 per cent.

European carriers continued to lead the recovery, with March traffic rising 425.4 per cent versus March 2021; an improvement over the 384.6 per cent increase in February 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. The impact of the war in Ukraine has been relatively limited outside of traffic to/from Russia and countries neighboring the conflict. Capacity rose 224.5 per cent, and load factor climbed 27.8 percentage points to 72.7 per cent.

Asia-Pacific airlines had a 197.1 per cent rise in March traffic compared to March 2021, up over the 146.5 per cent gain registered in February 2022 versus February 2021. While China and Japan remain restrictive to foreign visitors, other countries are becoming more relaxed, including South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand. Capacity rose 70.7 per cent and the load factor was up 24.1 percentage points to 56.6 per cent, the lowest among regions.

Walsh added that the ongoing recovery in air travel is excellent news for the global economy, for friends and families whose forced separations are being ended, and for the millions of people who depend on air transport for their livelihoods.

“Unfortunately, some government actions are emerging as key impediments to recovery. This is demonstrated most dramatically in the Netherlands. Schiphol airport is being allowed by the regulator to repay itself on the back of airlines and consumers for COVID-19 losses with a 37 per cent hike in airport charges over the next three years.

“Simultaneously, the airport has asked airlines to cancel bookings and new sales this week, a major inconvenience to passengers, claiming shortfalls in airport staffing, including government-provided security functions. And the government itself is planning to increase passenger taxes by EUR400 million annually with the stated purpose of discouraging travel.

“Seeing the Dutch government work to dismantle connectivity, fail to provide critical airport operational resources and enable price gouging by its hub airport is a destructive triple whammy. These actions will cost jobs. They will hurt consumers who are already struggling with price inflation. And they will deplete resources that airlines need to achieve their Net Zero sustainability commitment.

“The Dutch government has forgotten a key lesson from the COVID-19 crisis, which is that everyone’s quality of life suffers without efficient air connectivity. It must reverse course, and others must not follow its terrible example. To secure the recovery and its economic and social benefits, the immediate priority is for governments to have plans in place to meet expected demand this summer. Many people have waited two years for a summer holiday – it should not be ruined through lack of preparation,” Walsh said.