Global air passenger traffic rebounds to 97.3% of pre-pandemic levels

Asia-Pacific airlines clocked the fastest annual growth in September, Iata says

Christmas lights at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Airlines in the Asia-Pacific saw the biggest year-on-year rise in passenger traffic in September. EPA
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Global passenger traffic rebounded to 97.3 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels in September, driven by record domestic traffic, the International Air Transport Association said on Friday.

Total passenger traffic worldwide during the month, which is measured in revenue passenger kilometres, surged by more than 30 per cent year-on-year, according to Iata's monthly report.

Domestic traffic hit a new high by surging 28.3 per cent annually to surpass September 2019's mark by 5 per cent, Iata said.

International traffic jumped 31.2 per cent compared to the same period a year ago, with all markets posting double-digit percentage gains year-on-year. International revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) hit 93.1 per cent of September 2019 levels.

September's numbers provide a “solid” end to third quarter of 2023, and set up the air travel industry for a strong finish to the year despite various challenges globally, Iata said.

“There is every reason to believe that this momentum can be maintained in the New Year, despite economic and political uncertainties in parts of the world," director general Willie Walsh said in the report.

Air travel was brought to a halt in 2020 as the pandemic took hold and countries imposed restrictions. But airlines started to gain momentum when economies reopened and travel curbs were lifted.

Regionally, airlines in the Asia-Pacific logged the biggest year-on-year increase in September at 92.6 per cent.

African carriers came in second with a more than 28 per cent traffic increase, while carriers in Latin America recorded a 26.8 per cent jump.

Middle East airlines were close behind with a 26.6 per cent rise in traffic. North America and Europe, meanwhile, rose 18.9 per cent and 15.7 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, global air cargo demand – which served as a lifeline for airlines during the pandemic – modestly rose in September by 1.9 per cent, Iata said in a separate report.

Updated: November 10, 2023, 11:21 AM