IATA said that the recovery in air travel decelerated in August compared to July, as government actions in response to concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant cut deeply into domestic travel demand.
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to July 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
The latest results from IATA reveal that:
- Total demand for air travel in August 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 56.0% compared to August 2019. This marked a slowdown from July, when demand was 53.0% below July 2019 levels.
- This 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 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.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said that: “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.”
Walsh continued: “In that regard, the recent US announcement to lift travel restrictions from early November on fully vaccinated travellers 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 quarter.”
IATA’s Director General pointed out that: “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 COVID-19. 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.”
Next week, leaders of the global aviation community will gather in Boston at the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, Oct. 3 to Oct. 5.
Said Walsh: “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.”
Go to www.iata.org for more.