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Global air passengers fell in February 2021 – IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger traffic fell in February 2021, compared to PRE-COVID level (February 2019) and the immediate month prior (January 2020).

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to February 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKS) was down 74.7 percent compared to February 2019. That was worse than the 72.2 percent decline recorded in January 2021 versus two years ago.

International passenger demand in February was 88.7 percent below February 2019, a further drop from the 85.7 percent year-to-year decline recorded in January and the worst growth outcome since July 2020. Performance in all regions worsened compared to January 2021.

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Total domestic demand was down 51.0 percent versus pre-crisis (February 2019) levels. In January it was down 47.8percent on the 2019 period. This largely was owing to weakness in China travel, driven by government requests that citizens stay at home during the Lunar New Year travel period.

“February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel. In fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants. An important exception was the Australian domestic market.

A relaxation of restrictions on domestic flying resulted in significantly more travel. This tells us that people have not lost their desire to travel. They will fly, provided they can do so without facing quarantine measures,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’S Director General.

Asia- Pacific airlines’ February traffic was down 95.2 percent compared to February 2019, little changed from the 94.8 percent decline registered for January 2021 compared to January 2019. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for an eighth consecutive month. Capacity was down 87.5 percent and the load factor sank 50.0 percentage points to 31.1 percent, the lowest among regions.

European carriers recorded an 89.0 percent decline in traffic in February versus February 2019, substantially worse than the 83.4 percent decline in January compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity sank 80.5 percent and load factor fell by 36.0 percentage points to 46.4 percent.

Middle Eastern airlines saw demand fall 83.1 percent in February compared to February 2019, worsened from an 82.1 percent demand drop in January, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 68.6 percent, and load factor declined 33.4 percentage points to 39.0 percent.

North American carriers’ February traffic sank 83.1 percent compared to the 2019 period, deterioration from a 79.2 percent decline in January year to year. Capacity sagged 63.9 percent, and load factor dropped 41.9 percentage points to 36.7 percent.

Latin American airlines experienced an 83.5 percent demand drop in February, compared to the same month in 2019, markedly worse than the 78.5 percent decline in January 2019. February capacity was 75.4 percent down compared to February 2019 and load factor dropped 26.7 percentage points to 54.6 percent, highest among the regions for a fifth consecutive month.

African airlines’ traffic dropped 68.0 percent in February versus February two years ago, which was a setback compared to a 66.1 percent decline recorded in January compared to January 2019. February capacity contracted 54.6 percent versus February 2019, and load factor fell 20.5 percentage points to 49.1 percent.

“The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) recently stated that vaccinated individuals can travel safely. That is good news. We have also recently seen Oxera-edge Health research highlighting the efficacy of fast, accurate and affordable rapid tests for COVID-19. These developments should reassure governments that there are ways to efficiently manage the risks of COVID-19 without relying on demand-killing quarantine measures and/or expensive and time-consuming PCR testing,” said Walsh.

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