International travel demand continues to surge amid easing of Covid-19 restrictions

Northern Hemisphere peak summer travel season finishes on high note, Iata chief says

Demand for international air travel more than doubled in August. AFP
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The demand for international air travel more than doubled in August as countries continued to ease coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions amid a drop in the number of infections, aiding the recovery of air travel.

International travel demand surged almost 116 per cent in August compared with the same month last year, with airlines in Asia delivering the strongest year-on-year growth rates, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said in its monthly report on Thursday.

Domestic travel demand, on the other hand, rose 26.5 per cent in August and overall travel demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometres, or RPKs, increased about 68 per cent annually during the month.

Globally, traffic is now at 73.7 per cent of pre-crisis levels in 2019, the latest data show.

“The Northern Hemisphere peak summer travel season finished on a high note,” said Willie Walsh, Iata’s director general.

“Considering the prevailing economic uncertainties, travel demand is progressing well. And the removal or easing of travel restrictions at some key Asian destinations, including Japan, will certainly accelerate the recovery in Asia.”

Asia-Pacific airlines recorded a 449.2 per cent jump in demand in August compared to August 2021. The region experienced the strongest year-on-year growth, but “remaining travel restrictions in China continue to hamper the overall recovery for the region”, Iata said.

China, the world’s most populous country, continues to enforce strict pandemic-related restrictions in a number of cities to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Iata data shows that Middle East airline traffic rose about 145 per cent in August compared to August 2021. Airlines increased capacity by 72.2 per cent versus the prior year period, and load factor — a measure of how well an airline can fill available seats — climbed 23.7 percentage points to 79.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, global air cargo demand in August improved slightly compared with the previous month but is still 8.3 per cent down annually. Capacity was 6.3 per cent above August 2021, Iata data showed.

“Air cargo continues to demonstrate resilience. Cargo volumes, while tracking below the exceptional performance of 2021, have been relatively stable in the face of economic uncertainties and geopolitical conflicts,” Mr Walsh said.

“August presented several indicators with upside potential: oil prices stabilised, inflation slowed and there was a slight expansion in goods traded globally.

“But the decrease in new export orders in all markets except the US tells us that developments in the months ahead will need to be watched carefully.”

Airlines in the Middle East recorded an 11.3 per cent year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in August due to “stagnant cargo volumes” to and from Europe.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 3:18 PM