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IATA Figures Show Positive Growth in 2022 Passenger Demand
This week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported on the ongoing aviation industry recovery in 2022. The airline industry organization released statistics that show that total passenger traffic was up 64.4 percent in 2022 over 2021. This figure accounts for 68.5 percent of the 2019 pre-pandemic levels reflecting the fact that a number of countries still had travel restrictions for most of the year.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General said, “The industry left 2022 in far stronger shape than it entered, as most governments lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions during the year and people took advantage of the restoration of their freedom to travel. This momentum is expected to continue in the New Year, despite some governments’ over-reactions to China’s re-opening.”
According to IATA, the figures show significant regional disparities in airline passenger capacity and demand. The North American region is closest to 2019 levels with available seat kilometers (ASK), a measure of capacity, 9.9 percent off pre-pandemic levels and the demand metric, revenue passenger kilometers (RPK), 11.3 percent behind. Asia Pacific still has some way to go with ASKs 55.6 percent and RPK 49.4 percent below 2019 figures.
Unsurprisingly given the ongoing restrictions for most of the year in major markets such as China and Japan international passenger traffic figures for Asia Pacific were way down in 2022. Capacity was just 35 percent of 2019 and demand at just 32 percent. Domestic operations in the Asia Pacific region also showed a negative trend with both lower capacity and demand in 2022 over 2021.
The Middle East saw the largest percentage increase over 2021 in both total capacity (67 percent) and demand (144.4 percent). However, both of these metrics are still approximately 25 percent behind data from 2019. The Middle East’s domestic market operated close to 2019 levels with capacity and demand down just 4 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Brazil was a positive story for the Latin American and Caribbean region with domestic traffic close to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 with RPKs totaling 94.6 percent of 2019 levels. Overall the Latin American and Caribbean region’s domestic capacity was 1.6 percent above 2019 with demand just 0.5 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
The European region was a positive story for the airline industry in 2022 at least in terms of capacity and demand. Despite staffing shortages and multiple disruptions over the peak summer travel season, the IATA statistics show domestic capacity (-6.7 percent) and demand (-3.1 percent) close to pre-pandemic levels. In further positive news, the passenger load factor (PLF) for European domestic flights exceeded 2019 levels by 3.2 percent, reaching 85.1 percent. Africa was the only region to record positive PLF figures over 2019 for both domestic and international passenger traffic.
Walsh summarized the year’s passenger traffic numbers, saying, “Let us hope that 2022 becomes known as the year in which governments locked away forever the regulatory shackles that kept their citizens earthbound for so long. It is vital that governments learn the lesson that travel restrictions and border closures have little positive impact in terms of slowing the spread of infectious diseases in our globally inter-connected world. However, they have an enormous negative impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as on the global economy that depends on the unfettered movement of people and goods.”
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