Passenger traffic starts strong, forecasts busy air transport season globally

Passenger air travel demand was off to a good start in 2023 with all regions showing more rebounds and inkling of a great year ahead.
UK-bound Nigerians leaving in droves wait for check-in at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos
UK-bound passengers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos

Passenger air travel demand was off to a good start in 2023 with all regions showing more rebounds and inkling of a great year ahead.
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA), yesterday, announced that the recovery in air travel demand is continuing in 2023, based on January’s positive traffic results.

Total traffic in January 2023 – measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs – rose 67.0 per cent compared to January 2022. Globally, traffic is now at 84.2 per cent of January 2019 levels.

Domestic traffic for January 2023 rose 32.7 per cent compared to the year-ago period, helped by the lifting of the zero-COVID-19 policy in China. Total January 2023 domestic traffic was at 97.4 per cent of the January 2019 level.

International traffic climbed 104.0 per cent versus January 2022 with all markets recording strong growth, led by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. International RPKs reached 77.0 per cent of January 2019 levels.

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, noted that the rapid removal of COVID-19 restrictions for Chinese domestic and international travel bodes well for the continued strong industry recovery from the pandemic throughout the year.

“And, importantly, we have not seen the many economic and geopolitical uncertainties of the day dampening demand for travel,” Walsh said.

In the regional performance segment, African airlines’ traffic rose 124.8 per cent in January 2023 versus a year ago. January capacity was up 82.5 per cent and load factor climbed 13.9 percentage points to 73.7 per cent, the lowest among regions.
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Asia-Pacific airlines posted a 376.3 per cent increase in January traffic compared to January 2022, by far the strongest year-over-year rate among the regions, but off of a very low base when much of the region was still closed to travel. Capacity rose 167.1 per cent and the load factor increased 36.6 percentage points to 83.3 per cent, the highest among the regions.

European carriers saw a 60.6 per cent traffic rise versus January 2022. Capacity increased 30.1 per cent, and load factor rose 14.2 percentage points to 75.0 per cent.

Middle Eastern airlines’ January traffic rose 97.7 per cent compared to January a year ago. Capacity increased 45.9 per cent and load factor climbed 20.8 percentage points to 79.2 per cent.

North American carriers reported an 82.4 per cent traffic increase in January versus the 2022 period. Capacity rose 37.3 per cent, and load factor climbed 19.7 percentage points to 79.6 per cent.

Latin American airlines had a 46.8 per cent traffic increase compared to the same month in 2022. January capacity climbed 34.3 per cent and load factor rose 7.1 percentage points to 82.7 per cent, the second highest among the regions.

Walsh said: “With strong travel demand continuing through the traditionally slower winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, the stage is set for an even busier spring and summer.

“At a time when many are just beginning to enjoy their newly restored travel freedoms, it is especially disappointing to see the Dutch government making plans to limit their movements by unilaterally and unjustly reducing operations at Schiphol Airport,” he said.
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