SINGAPORE, 14 January 2022: Air travel continued to recover
in November 2021 as international demand maintained a steady upward trend and
more markets reopened before the emergence of the Omicron variant, the
International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported this week.

But that was before the more contagious  Omicron variant emerged and the tale of the
tap for global domestic traffic weakened, mainly owing to the return of
stringent travel restrictions in China.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are to November 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in November 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 47.0% compared to November 2019. This marked an uptick compared to October’s 48.9% contraction from October 2019. 
  • Domestic air travel deteriorated slightly in November after two consecutive monthly improvements. Domestic RPKs fell by 24.9% versus 2019, compared with a 21.3% decline in October. Primarily this was driven by China, where traffic fell 50.9% compared to 2019 after several cities introduced stricter travel restrictions to contain (pre-Omicron) COVID outbreaks.
  • International passenger demand in November was 60.5% below November 2019, bettering the 64.8% decline recorded in October.

“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. 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, ” said IATA’s director-general
Willie Walsh.

International
Passenger Markets

European
carriers’
Novemberinternational
traffic declined 43.7% versus November 2019, much improved compared to the
49.4%% decrease in October versus the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped
36.3% and load factor fell 9.7 percentage points to 74.3%.

Asia-Pacific
airlines
saw theirNovember
international traffic fall 89.5% compared to November 2019, slightly improved
from the 92.0% drop registered in October 2021 versus October 2019. Capacity
dropped 80.0%, and the load factor was down 37.8 percentage points to 42.2%,
the lowest among regions.

Middle Eastern
airlines
had a54.4% demand drop in
November compared to November 2019, well up compared to the 60.9% decrease in
October versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 45.5%, and load factor
slipped 11.9 percentage points to 61.3%.

North American
carriers
experienceda 44.8%
traffic drop in November versus the 2019 period, significantly improved over
the 56.7% decline in October compared to October 2019. Capacity dropped 35.6%,
and load factor fell 11.6 percentage points to 69.6%.

Latin American
airlines
saw a 47.2% drop in November traffic, compared to the same month in
2019, a marked upturn over the 54.6% decline in October compared to October
2019. November capacity fell 46.6%, and the load factor dropped 0.9 percentage
points to 81.3%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the
14th consecutive month.

African airlines’
traffic fell
56.8% in November versus two years ago, improved over the 59.8% decline in
October compared to October 2019. November capacity was down 49.6%, and load
factor declined 10.1 percentage points to 60.3%.