Amid positive signs, extensive govt curbs foiling air travel recovery: Iata
Vaccinated travellers pose very little risk to the local population: Walsh
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) said on Wednesday that it saw some positive signs of recovery in air travel, but warned that extensive government restrictions continue to deter the process.
In May, international and domestic travel demand showed marginal improvements compared to the prior month, but traffic remained well below pre-pandemic levels, new Iata data shows.
Recovery in international traffic in particular continued to be stymied by extensive government travel restrictions. However, “we are starting to see positive developments, with some international markets opening to vaccinated travellers”, said Willie Walsh, Iata’s director-general.
He said too many governments continue to act as if the only tool in their anti-Covid-19 arsenal is a blanket border closure or an arrival quarantine.
“In fact, research from leading medical organisations around the globe confirms that vaccinated travellers pose very little risk to the local population while data show that pre-departure testing largely removes the risk of unvaccinated travelers importing Covid-19,” said Walsh.
“The Northern Hemisphere summer travel season has now fully arrived. And it is disappointing that more governments are not moving more rapidly to use data to drive border opening strategies that would help revive tourism jobs and reunite families."
Comparing traffic data of May 2021 and 2019 — because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of Covid-19 — Iata said total demand for air travel in May 2021, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), was down 62.7 per cent compared to May 2019. That was a gain over the 65.2 per cent decline recorded in April 2021 versus April 2019.
International passenger demand in May was 85.1 per cent below May 2019, a small step-up from the 87.2 per cent decline recorded in April 2021 versus two years ago. All regions with the exception of the Asia-Pacific contributed to this modest improvement.
Carriers in the Middle East, however, experienced an 81.3 per cent demand drop in May compared to May 2019, slightly bettering the 82.9 per cent decrease in April, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 63.7 per cent, and load factor fell 35.3 percentage points to 37.7 per cent.
Total domestic demand was down 23.9 per cent versus pre-crisis levels (May 2019), slightly improved over April 2021, when domestic traffic was down 25.5 per cent versus the 2019 period. China and Russia traffic continue to be in in positive growth territory compared to pre-Covid-19 levels, while India and Japan saw significant deterioration amid new variants and outbreaks, Iata said.
In the air cargo segment, global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), was up 9.4 per cent compared to May 2019. Seasonally-adjusted demand rose by 0.4 per cent month-on-month in May, the 13th consecutive month of improvement.
The pace of growth slowed slightly in May compared to April which saw demand increase 11.3 per cent against pre-Covid-19 levels (April 2019). Notwithstanding, air cargo outperformed global goods trade for the fifth consecutive month, Iata said.
“Propelled by strong economic growth in trade and manufacturing, demand for air cargo is 9.4 per cent above pre-crisis levels. As economies unlock, we can expect a shift in consumption from goods to services. This could slow growth for cargo in general, but improved competitiveness compared to sea shipping should continue to make air cargo a bright spot for airlines while passenger demand struggles with continued border closures and travel restrictions,” said Walsh.
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