Global air passenger numbers continue to rise in March
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released its passenger data for March 2022, showing that the recovery in air travel is continuing. The impacts of the conflict in Ukraine on air travel demand were quite limited overall, while the effects related to Omicron continued to be largely confined to Asian domestic markets.
• Total traffic in March 2022 (measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometers or RPK) increased by 76.0% compared to March 2021. Although this figure is lower than the 115.9% increase in demand in February d Year-over-year March volumes were closest to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, 41% below.
• March 2022 domestic traffic was up 11.7% year-on-year, well below the 59.4% year-over-year improvement seen in February. This is largely the result of Omicron-related lockdowns in China. March domestic RPKs were down 23.2% from March 2019.
• International RPKs were up 285.3% from March 2021, outpacing the 259.2% gain seen in February from the prior year period. Most regions improved their performance from the previous month, led by carriers in Europe. March 2022 international RPKs were down 51.9% from the same month in 2019.
“With the removal of barriers to travel in most places, we are seeing the long-awaited surge in pent-up demand finally materializing. Unfortunately, we are also seeing lengthy delays at many airports with insufficient resources to handle the growing number This needs to be addressed urgently to avoid frustrating consumer enthusiasm for air travel,” says Willie Walsh, Iata’s chief executive.
International passenger markets
European carriers continued to lead the recovery, with March traffic increasing 425.4% from March 2021, improving from the 384.6% increase in February 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. impact of the war in Ukraine was relatively limited apart from traffic to/from Russia and neighboring countries of the conflict. Capacity increased by 224.5% and load factor increased by 27.8 percentage points to 72.7%.
Asia Pacific Airlines recorded a 197.1% increase in traffic in March compared to March 2021, up from the 146.5% gain recorded in February 2022 compared to February 2021. While China and Japan remain restrictive for foreign visitors, other countries are becoming more relaxed, including South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand. Capacity increased 70.7% and load factor increased 24.1 percentage points to 56.6%, the lowest among regions.
Middle Eastern Airlines‘Traffic increased by 245.8% in March compared to March 2021, an improvement compared to the increase of 218.2% in February 2022, compared to the same month in 2021. Capacity in March increased by 96.6% over the prior year period, and load factor increased by 31.1 percentage points to 72.1%.
North American Carriers saw a 227.8% increase in traffic in March compared to the 2021 period, down slightly from the 237.3% increase in February 2022 compared to February 2021. Capacity increased by 91.9 % and load factor increased by 31.2 percentage points to 75.4%.
Latin American airlinesMarch traffic increased by 239.9% compared to the same month in 2021, little change from the 241.9% increase in February 2022 compared to February 2021. The region benefited from the end of the bankruptcy proceedings for some of the major carriers based there. March capacity increased 173.2% and load factor increased 15.8 percentage points to 80.3%, the highest load factor among regions for the 18th consecutive month.
African Airlines recorded a 91.8% increase in RPKs in March compared to a year ago, an improvement from the 70.8% year-over-year increase recorded in February 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. Demand for air travel is being tested by low vaccination rates on the continent as well as the effects of rising inflation. March 2022 capacity increased by 49.9% and load factor increased by 14.1 percentage points to 64.5%.
Domestic passenger markets
China’s domestic traffic was down 59.1% in March from March 2021, representing a significant reversal from the 32.8% year-over-year growth recorded in February. This was due to the drastic closures and travel restrictions following the spread of Omicron in the country.
India’s domestic RPKs rose 32.3% year-on-year in March, sharply reversing February’s 2.4% decline from a year earlier.
2022 versus 2019
Strong March growth in most markets compared to a year ago is helping passenger demand catch up to 2019 levels. Total RPKs in March were down 41.3% from March 2019, an improvement from the 45.5% drop recorded in February compared to the same month in 2019. The domestic recovery continues to outpace that of international markets despite the setback in China.
“The ongoing resumption of air travel is great news for the global economy, for the friends and families whose forced separations have ended, and for the millions of people who depend on air travel for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, some actions governments appear to be essential obstacles to recovery, as the Netherlands shows in a particularly striking way.
Schiphol Airport is allowed by the regulator to reimburse itself on the backs of airlines and consumers for Covid-19 losses with a 37% hike in airport charges over the next three years. Simultaneously, the airport has asked airlines to cancel reservations and new sales this week, much to the chagrin of passengers, alleging staff shortages at the airport, including government-provided security duties. And the government itself plans to raise passenger taxes by 400 million euros a year with the stated aim of discouraging travel.
To see the Dutch government working to dismantle connectivity, failing to provide essential airport operational resources and allowing prices to rise through its central 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 drain the resources airlines need to achieve their Net Zero sustainability commitment.
“The Dutch government has forgotten a key lesson of the Covid-19 crisis, namely that everyone’s quality of life suffers without effective air connectivity. It must reverse the trend and others must not follow its terrible example. For ensure the recovery and its social benefits, the immediate priority is that governments have plans in place to meet the expected demand this summer Many people have waited two years for a summer holiday – they shouldn’t be spoiled by lack of preparation,” says Walsh.