International and domestic air travel demand showed ‘marginal improvements’ in May – compared the previous month – according to IATA, but the airline industry trade association also indicated that traffic remained well below pre-pandemic levels.
IATA notes that recovery in international traffic in particular continued to be stymied by extensive government travel restrictions.
It also pointed out that because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to May 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
In brief, IATA reports that:
- Total demand for air travel in May 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 62.7% compared to May 2019. That was a gain over the 65.2% decline recorded in April 2021 versus April 2019.
- International passenger demand in May was 85.1% below May 2019, a small step-up from the 87.2% decline recorded in April 2021 versus two years ago. All regions with the exception of Asia-Pacific contributed to this modest improvement.
- Total domestic demand was down 23.9% versus pre-crisis levels (May 2019), slightly improved over April 2021, when domestic traffic was down 25.5% 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.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, observed: “We are starting to see positive developments, with some international markets opening to vaccinated travelers. The Northern Hemisphere summer travel season is 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.”
Walsh said that: “To paraphrase an old saying, when you think that all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. 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.”
Said Walsh: “In fact, research from leading medical organizations around the globe confirms that vaccinated travelers 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.”
IATA’s boss concluded: “It is long past time for governments to start responding to this information with more nuanced data-driven risk-based strategies. These will minimize the chance of importing COVID-19 while allowing the world to reopen to travel and all the opportunities it brings to reconnect with loved ones, to realize business opportunities, to explore the world or take a well-deserved vacation.”
Go to www.iata.org for more.