By Victor Shalton
IATA Reports Strong Rebound in Global Travel for February 2022
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported a strong rebound in air travel in February as the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid diminishes.
However, IATA Director General Willie Walsh noted “unacceptably long lines” at airports ahead of a surge in Easter travel and warned of “a huge increase in passenger numbers in the coming months.”
Total traffic in February was more than double that of February 2021, up almost 116%. However, global traffic remained 45% down on February 2019. Worldwide domestic traffic rose 61% year on year and was just 22% below the level of 2019 despite wide variations by market.
Walsh also noted that the war in Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, did not have a major impact on traffic levels.
“The recovery in air travel is gathering steam as governments in many parts of the world lift travel restrictions. States that persist in attempting to lock-out the disease, rather than managing it, as we do with other diseases, risk missing out on the enormous economic and societal benefits that a restoration of international connectivity will bring,” Walsh said in a statement.
International Passenger Markets
African airlines had a 69.5% rise in February revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) — a measure of airline capacity — versus year ago, a large improvement compared to the 20.5% year-over-year increase recorded in January 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. February 2022 capacity was up 34.7% and load factor climbed 12.9 percentage points to 63.0%.
Asia-Pacific airlines had a 144.4% rise in February traffic compared to February 2021, up somewhat over the 125.8% gain registered in January 2022 versus January 2021. Capacity rose 60.8% and the load factor was up 16.1 percentage points to 47.0%, the lowest among regions.
Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 215.3% in February compared to February 2021, well up compared to the 145.0% increase in January 2022, versus the same month in 2021. February capacity rose 89.5% versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 25.8 percentage points to 64.7%.
European carriers saw their February traffic rise 380.6% versus February 2021, improved over the 224.3% increase in January 2022 versus the same month in 2021. Capacity rose 174.8%, and load factor climbed 30.3 percentage points to 70.9%.
North American carriers experienced a 236.7% traffic rise in February versus the 2021 period, significantly increased compared to the 149.0% rise in January 2022 over January 2021. Capacity rose 91.7%, and load factor climbed 27.4 percentage points to 63.6%.
Latin American airlines’ February traffic rose 242.7% compared to the same month in 2021, well up over the 155.2% rise in January 2022 compared to January 2021. February capacity rose 146.3% and load factor increased 21.7 percentage points to 77.0%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 17th consecutive month.
The U.S. remained the stand-out domestic market, with traffic in February 112% up on a year ago and just 7% down on 2019. The world’s second biggest domestic market — China — remained 35% down on 2019.