Despite the war in Ukraine and travel restrictions in China, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that air traffic resumed its robust recovery trend in April. This was mostly due to increased worldwide demand.
“We have returned to year-on-year traffic comparisons, rather than comparisons with the 2019 period, unless otherwise specified,” IATA said in its report. Because of the low traffic base in 2021, several markets may experience extremely high year-over-year growth, even though their size will remain much less than in 2019.
“Total demand for air travel in April 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) increased 78.7% compared to April 2021, and was slightly ahead of March 2022’s 76.0 percent year-over-year increase,” according to IATA.
Domestic air travel fell 1.0 percent in April compared to the same month the previous year, reversing a 10.6 percent increase in March. This was completely due to China’s continued stringent travel restrictions, which saw domestic traffic drop by 80.8 percent year over year. Domestic traffic was down 25.8% in April compared to April 2019.
International RPKs increased by 331.9 percent from April 2021 to March 2022, outpacing the 289.9 percent increase from a year previously. Several routes, including Europe – Central America, Middle East – North America, and North America – Central America, are actually above pre-pandemic levels. When compared to the same month in 2019, international RPKs in April 2022 were down 43.4 percent.
“With the lifting of many border restrictions, we are seeing the long-expected surge in bookings as people seek to make up for two years of lost travel opportunities. April data is cause for optimism in almost all markets, except China, which continues to severely restrict travel.
The experience of the rest of the world is demonstrating that increased travel is manageable with high levels of population immunity and the normal systems for disease surveillance. We hope that China can recognize this success soon and take its own steps towards normality,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.
According to IATA’s International Passenger Markets, African carriers’ traffic increased 116.2 percent in April 2022 compared to the same month the previous year, a faster rate than the 93.3 percent increase seen in March 2022. Capacity increased by 65.7 percent in April 2022, while load factor increased by 15.7 percentage points to 67.3 percent.
International traffic for European carriers increased 480.0 percent in April 2022 compared to April 2021, a significant rise over the 434.3 percent increase in March 2022 compared to March 2021. Capacity increased by 233.5%, while load factor increased by 33.7 percentage points to 79.4%.
International traffic for Asia-Pacific airlines increased 290.8 percent in April compared to April 2021, a substantial improvement above the 197.2 percent increase seen in March 2022 against March 2021. Capacity increased by 88.6%, but the load factor increased by 34.6 percentage points to 66.8%, still the lowest among regions.
In April 2022, Middle Eastern airlines had a 265.0 percent increase in demand compared to April 2021, surpassing the 252.7 percent increase in March 2022 compared to March 2021. Capacity increased by 101.0 percent in April compared to the same month last year, and load factor increased by 32.2 percentage points to 71.7 percent.
April traffic for North American carriers increased 230.2 percent over the same month in 2021, somewhat higher than the 227.9 percent increase in March 2022 over March 2021. Capacity increased by 98.5 percent, while load factor increased by 31.6 percent to 79.3 percent.
In April, Latin American airlines saw a 263.2 percent increase in traffic over the same month in 2021, surpassing the 241.2 percent increase in March 2022 over March 2021. April capacity surged by 189.1%, and load factor improved by 16.8% to 82.3 percent, easily the greatest load factor among the regions for the 19th month in a row.
IATA reported that total passenger demand in April 2022 was down 37.2 percent compared to the same month in 2019, which is an improvement above the 41.3 percent drop in March 2022 compared to March 2019.
“With the northern summer travel season now upon us, two things are clear: two years of border restrictions have not weakened the desire for the freedom to travel. Where it is permitted, demand rapidly is returning to pre-COVID levels. However, it is also evident that the failings in how governments managed the pandemic have continued into the recovery.
With governments making U-turns and policy changes there was uncertainty until the last minute, leaving little time to restart an industry that was largely dormant for two years. It is no wonder that we are seeing operational delays in some locations.
In those few locations where these problems are recurring, solutions need to be found so passengers can travel with confidence.
“In less than two weeks, leaders of the global aviation community will gather in Doha at the 78th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit. This year’s AGM will take place as a wholly in-person event for the first time since 2019.
It should send a strong signal that it is time for governments to lift any remaining restrictions and requirements and prepare for an enthusiastic response by consumers who are voting with their feet for a full restoration of their right to travel,” said Walsh.