International passenger demand continues to be hit amid Covid-19

Global passenger demand in September plunged 88.8% compared to the same month last year, Iata says

International passenger demand continues to be impacted due to the coronavirus pandemic related travel restrictions, International Air Transport Association (Iata) said on Wednesday. Toby Melville / Reuters
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International passenger demand continued to be affected by the pandemic-related travel restrictions with demand plunging 88.8 per cent in September compared to the same month last year, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Domestic demand, however, improved in September from the previous month but was still down 43.3 per cent year-on-year.

“We have hit a wall in the industry’s recovery,” Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and chief executive, said. “A resurgence in Covid-19 outbreaks particularly in Europe and the US, combined with governments’ reliance on the blunt instrument of quarantine in the absence of globally aligned testing regimes, has halted momentum toward reopening borders to travel.”

Many countries are resorting to temporary lockdowns as a second wave of coronavirus infections grips the world. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a fresh lockdown earlier this week to contain the pandemic. Restaurants and non-essential shops will be closed for four weeks as part of the new measures that will come into effect from Thursday. Infections are also rising in other parts of Europe as well as in Iran and Turkey.

European carriers’ September demand collapsed 82.5 per cent compared to a year ago due to renewed infections that led to a wave of border closings, according to Iata. Europe was the only region to see a deterioration in traffic compared to August.

Asia-Pacific airlines’ September traffic, on the other hand, plunged 95.8 per cent annually and remains unchanged from a 96.2 per cent drop in August as countries in the region continue to implement stringent flight restrictions.

Airlines in the Middle East posted a 90.2 per cent traffic decline for September, an improvement from a 92.3 per cent demand drop in August.

North American carriers saw a 91.3 per cent traffic decline in September, a slight improvement from a 92 per cent decline in August, while African airlines traffic sank 88.5 per cent in September.

Latin American airlines saw a 92.2 per cent demand drop in September, compared to the same month last year.

“Although domestic markets are doing better, this is primarily owing to improvements in China and Russia. And domestic traffic represents just a bit more than a third of total traffic, so it is not enough to sustain a general recovery,” Mr de Juniac said.

Global air cargo demand recovered in September but remained below the 2019 levels due to capacity constraints as passenger aircraft continue to remain grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Air freight demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres, fell 8 per cent in September compared to the same month a year ago, Iata said in a separate statement. This is an improvement from the 12.1 per cent year-on-year drop recorded in August.

Global capacity plunged 25.2 per cent in September from a year ago.

“For air cargo, 92 per cent of the business is still there, whereas about 90 per cent of international passenger traffic has disappeared,” Mr de Juniac, said. “Favourable indicators for the peak year-end season will support the continued recovery in demand.”