Tuesday,  September 28, 2021  4:32 am

July saw an uptick in traffic, IATA says, but demand still far below pre-COVID levels

  • Air
  •   09-02-2021  5:42 am
  •   Pax Global Media

July saw an uptick in traffic, IATA says, but demand still far below pre-COVID levels
Willie Walsh, director general, IATA. (Supplied)
Pax Global Media

Both international and domestic travel demand showed “significant momentum” in July 2021 compared to June, says The International Air Transport Association (IATA), but demand remained “far below pre-pandemic levels.”

“Extensive government-imposed travel restrictions continue to delay recovery in international markets,” IATA said in a news release on Monday (Sept. 1).

Total demand for air travel in July 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 53.1% compared to July 2019.

(This is a significant improvement from June when demand was 60% below June 2019 levels).

International passenger demand in July was 73.6% below July 2019, bettering the 80.9% decline recorded in June 2021 versus two years ago.

All regions showed improvement and North American airlines posted the smallest decline in international RPKs (July traffic data from Africa was not available).

Total domestic demand was down 15.6% versus pre-crisis levels (July 2019), compared to the 22.1% decline recorded in June over June 2019.

Russia posted the best result for another month, with RPKs up 28.9% vs. July 2019.

“July results reflect people’s eagerness to travel during the Northern Hemisphere summer. Domestic traffic was back to 85% of pre-crisis levels, but international demand has only recovered just over a quarter of 2019 volumes,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. “The problem is border control measures. Government decisions are not being driven by data, particularly with respect to the efficacy of vaccines. People traveled where they could, and that was primarily in domestic markets. A recovery of international travel needs governments to restore the freedom to travel.”

“At a minimum, vaccinated travellers should not face restrictions. That would go a long way to reconnecting the world and reviving the travel and tourism sectors.”

A missed opportunity

The bottom line, IATA said, is that too many governments “missed the opportunity” to apply a risk-based approach to managing their borders during the summer travel season.

“The growing number of fully vaccinated travellers and the prevalence of testing provided the chance to restore international connectivity and bring much needed relief to economies that are heavily reliant on travel and tourism,” said Walsh. “Instead, governments continued to behave as if it was the summer of 2020. Economies and the labour force will pay the price for decisions that were made not based on science, but on political expediency.”

Governments have rightly urged their populations to be vaccinated; now governments need to have confidence in the benefits of vaccinations—including the freedom to travel.”

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