Compared to figures from October 2021, the pattern of steady incline continued through November as confidence in travel resumed.
Stats compared to the same month in 2019, when air traffic was unaffected by Covid-19, showed in November, total travel demand was down by 47 per cent (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres, RPKs). An improvement when compared to October 2021, where a 48.9-per-cent reduction was recorded.
International travel sees recovery
International flights were seeing more passengers onboard, with RPKs falling 60.5 per cent compared to 64.8 per cent in October. European, Middle Eastern, North American, and Latin American airlines benefited significantly from the increase in international travel. Improvements were smaller for Asia-Pacific carriers and African airlines noted a slight drop in passenger demand, compared with the previous month.
After two months of steady progress, November saw an overall decrease in domestic travel, RPKs showed a 24.9-per-cent decline compared to 21.3 per cent in October. This was caused primarily by the tightening of travel restrictions in China, which saw domestic traffic in the country fall by 50.9 per cent.
Although Australia continued to suffer the most with RPKs 71.6 per cent down, internal borders reopening allowed a slight surge in domestic traffic. The US held its position at the top of the RPK chart with thanksgiving travellers prompting RPKs to be only six per cent less than November 2019.
Effects of omicron
IATA predicts new restrictions caused by omicron will negatively impact the positive trend and an overall decline in passenger air traffic will be seen over the following period.
“The recovery in air traffic continued in November. Unfortunately, governments over-reacted to the emergence of the omicron variant at the close of the month and resorted to the tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travellers and quarantine to slow the spread. Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
The prospect of further setbacks for the travel industry is disheartening, but let’s hope it’s only temporary
“If the experience of the last 22 months has shown anything, it is that there is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders. And these measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year” summarized Walsh.