(01 Oct 2021)
IATA has reported that demand for air travel in August
2021, measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), was down
56% when compared to August 2019 and a marked slowdown from July
2021, when demand was 53% below July 2019 levels.

The decrease was entirely driven by domestic
markets, which were down 32.2% compared to August 2019, a major
deterioration from July 2021, when traffic was down 16.1% versus
two years ago. The worst impact was in China, while India and
Russia were the only large markets to show a month-to-month
improvement when compared to July 2021.

International passenger
demand in August was 68.8% below August 2019, which was an
improvement compared to the 73.1% decline recorded in July. All
regions showed improvement, which was attributable to growing
vaccination rates and less stringent international travel
restrictions in some regions.

“August results
reflect the impact of concerns over the Delta variant on domestic
travel, even as international travel continued on a snail’s pace
toward a full recovery that cannot happen until governments
restore the freedom to travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director
General. “In that regard, the recent US
announcement to lift travel restrictions from early November on
fully vaccinated travelers is very good news and will bring
certainty to a key market. But challenges remain, September
bookings indicate a deterioration in international recovery.
That’s bad news heading into the traditionally slower fourth

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their August international traffic
fall 93.4% compared to August 2019, barely improved over the 94.5%
drop registered in July 2021 versus July 2019 as the region
continues to have the strictest border control measures. Capacity
dropped 85.7% and the load factor was down 44.9 percentage points
to 37.9%, by far the lowest among regions.

European carriers’ August international traffic declined 55.9%
versus August 2019, significantly bettering the 63.2% decrease in
July compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 45.0%
and load factor fell 17.7 percentage points to 71.5%.

Eastern airlines had a 69.3% demand drop in August compared to
August 2019, improved upon the 73.6% decrease in July, versus the
same month in 2019. Capacity declined 55.0%, and load factor
deteriorated 26.2 percentage points to 56.2%.

North American carriers experienced a 59.0% traffic drop in August
versus the 2019 period, much improved on the 61.7% decline in July
compared to July 2019. Capacity sank 48.5%, and load factor dipped
18.0 percentage points to 70.3%.

Latin American
airlines saw a 63.1% drop in August traffic, compared to the same
month in 2019, improved over the 68.3% decline in July compared to
July 2019. August capacity fell 57.3% and load factor dropped 11.4
percentage points to 72.6%, which was the highest load factor
among the regions for the eleventh consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic fell 58.5% in August versus two
years’ ago, somewhat improved over the 60.4% decline in July
compared to July 2019. August capacity was down 50.1% and load
factor declined 12.7% to 63.0%.

Domestic Passenger

China’s domestic traffic dropped
57.0% compared to August 2019 – a huge deterioration from the 2.5%
fall in July. However, overall cases were low, and outbreaks were
mostly under control by the end of August, suggesting numbers will
improve in September.

India’s domestic traffic
reversed the trend, as demand fell 44.8% in August, improved from
a 58.9% decline in July versus July 2019, owing to positive trends
in new cases and vaccination.

“The rapid slowdown in the domestic traffic recovery in
August, owing to a spike in the Delta variant shows how exposed
air travel continues to be to the cycles of COVID19. For
governments that should send two messages. The first is that this
is not the time to step away from continuing support of the
industry, both financial and regulatory. The second is the need to
apply a risk-based approach to managing borders–as passengers are
already doing in making their travel decisions,” said Walsh.

Next week, leaders of the global aviation community will
gather in Boston for the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and
World Air Transport Summit, 3-5 October.

“The AGM provides a
powerful vote of confidence in the safety of international air
travel and the health protocols that have now been in place for up
to 18 months. I’ve said it before: virtual meetings are no
substitute for the value delivered through the opportunity to meet
face-to-face. The AGM will provide a powerful reminder of this
fact,” said Walsh.

See latest

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