GENEVA, 11 November 2021: The International Air Transport
Association (IATA) reports a moderate rebound in air travel in September 2021
compared to August’s performance.

This was driven by a recovery in domestic markets,
particularly China, where some travel curbs were lifted following the COVID-19
outbreaks in August. International demand, meanwhile, slipped slightly compared
to the previous month.

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

  • Total demand for air travel in September 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 53.4% compared to September 2019. This marked an uptick from August, when demand was 56.0% below August 2019 levels. 
  • Domestic markets were down 24.3% compared to September 2019, a significant improvement from August 2021, when traffic was down 32.6% versus two years ago. All markets showed improvement with the exception of Japan and Russia, although the latter remained in solid growth territory compared to 2019.
  • International passenger demand in September was 69.2% below September 2019, fractionally worse than the 68.7% decline recorded in August.

“September’s performance is a positive development, but
recovery in international traffic remains stalled amid continuing border
closures and quarantine mandates. The recent US policy change to reopen travel
from 33 markets for fully vaccinated foreigners from 8 November is a welcome,
if long overdue, development. Along with recent re-openings in other key
markets like Australia, Argentina, Thailand, and Singapore, this should give a
boost to the large-scale restoration of the freedom to travel,” said
IATA’s director general Willie Walsh.

International
Passenger Markets

European
carriers’
Septemberinternational
traffic declined 56.9% versus September 2019, down one percentage point
compared to the 55.9% decrease in August versus the same month in 2019.
Capacity dropped 46.3%, and load factor fell 17.2 percentage points to 69.6%.

Asia-Pacific
airlines
saw theirSeptember
international traffic fall 93.2% compared to September 2019, virtually
unchanged from the 93.4% drop registered in August 2021 versus August 2019 as
the region continues to have the strictest border control measures. Capacity
dropped 85.2%, and the load factor was down 42.3 percentage points to 36.2%,
easily the lowest among regions.

Middle Eastern
airlines
had a67.1% demand drop in
September compared to September 2019, slightly improved over the 68.9% decrease
in August versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 52.6%, and load
factor slipped 23.1 percentage points to 52.2%.

North American
carriers
experienceda 61.0%
traffic drop in September versus the 2019 period, somewhat improved on the
59.3% decline in August compared to August 2019. Capacity dropped 47.6%, and
load factor fell 21.3 percentage points to 61.9%.

Latin American
airlines
saw a 61.3% drop in September traffic, compared to the same month in
2019, an upturn over the 62.6% decline in August compared to August 2019.
September capacity fell 55.6%, and the load factor dropped 10.7 percentage
points to 72.0%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the
12th consecutive month.

African airlines’
traffic fell
62.2% in September versus two years ago, almost 4 percentage points worse than
the 58.5% decline in August compared to August 2019. September capacity was
down 49.3%, and load factor declined 18.4 percentage points to 53.7%.

The Bottom Line

“Each reopening announcement seems to come with similar
but different rules. We cannot let the recovery get bogged down in
complications. The ICAO High-Level Conference on COVID-19 agreed that harmonization
should be a priority. The G20 declared a commitment to take action to support
recovery with seamless travel, sustainability, and digitalization. Now
governments must put actions behind these words to realize simple and effective
measures. People, jobs, businesses and economies are counting on real
progress,” said Walsh.

IATA’s vision for
safely re-establishing global connectivity is based on five key principles:

  • Vaccines should be available to all as quickly as possible
  • Vaccinated travellers should not face any barriers to travel
  • Testing should enable those without access to vaccines to travel
    without quarantine
  • Antigen tests are the key to cost-effective and convenient testing
    regimes, and
  • Governments should pay for testing so it does not become an economic
    barrier to travel