• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Air travel reaches 99% of 2019 levels as recovery continue

Emirates, Air Canada form strategic partnership

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for November 2023 air travel performance indicating that air travel demand topped 99 percent of 2019 levels.

Total traffic in November 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 29.7 percent compared to November 2022. Globally, traffic is now at 99.1 percent of November 2019 levels.

International traffic rose 26.4 percent versus November 2022. The Asia-Pacific region continued to report the strongest year-over-year results (+63.8percent) with all regions showing improvement compared to the prior year. November 2023 international RPKs reached 94.5 percent of November 2019 levels.

Domestic traffic for November 2023 was up 34.8 percent compared to November 2022. Total November 2023 domestic traffic was 6.7 percent above the November 2019 level. Growth was particularly strong in China (+272 percent) as it recovered from the COVID travel restrictions that were still in place a year ago. US domestic travel, benefitting from strong Thanksgiving holidays demand, reached a new high, expanding +9.1 percent over November 2019.

“We are moving ever closer to surpassing the 2019 peak year for air travel. Economic headwinds are not deterring people from taking to the skies. International travel remains 5.5 percent below pre-pandemic levels but that gap is rapidly closing. And domestic markets have been above their pre-pandemic levels continuously since April,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

African airlines had a 22.1 percent rise in November RPKs versus a year ago. November 2023 capacity was up 29.6 percent and load factor fell 4.3 percentage points to 69.7 percent, the lowest among regions.

Asia-Pacific airlines had a 63.8 percent rise in November traffic compared to November 2022, which was the strongest year-over-year rate among the regions. Capacity rose 58.0 percent and the load factor was up 2.9 percentage points to 82.6 percent.

European carriers’ November traffic climbed 14.8 percent versus November 2022. Capacity increased 15.2 percent, and load factor declined 0.3 percentage points to 83.3 percent.

Middle Eastern airlines saw an 18.6 percent traffic rise in November compared to November 2022. November capacity increased 19.0 percent versus the year-ago period, and load factor fell 0.2 percentage points to 77.4 percent.

North American carriers experienced a 14.3 percent traffic rise in November versus the 2022 period. Capacity increased 16.3 percent, and load factor fell 1.4 percentage points to 80 percent.

Latin American airlines’ November traffic rose 20.0 percent compared to the same month in 2022. November capacity climbed 17.7 percent and load factor increased 1.7 percentage points to 84.9 percent, the highest of any region.

“Aviation’s rapid recovery from COVID demonstrates just how important flying is to people and to businesses. In parallel to aviation’s recovery, governments recognized the urgency of transitioning from jet fuel to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for aviation’s decarbonization.

The Third Conference on Aviation Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) in November saw governments agree that we should see five percent carbon savings by 2030 from SAF. This was followed up at COP28 in December where governments agreed that we need a broad transition from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Airlines don’t need convincing.

They agreed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and every drop of SAF ever made in that effort has been bought and used. There simply is not enough SAF being produced. So we look to 2024 to be the year when governments follow-up on their own declarations and finally deliver comprehensive policy measures to incentivize the rapid scaling-up of SAF production,” said Walsh.