By Chinelo Obogo
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in November 2021, prior to the emergence of Omicron. International demand sustained its steady upward trend as more markets reopened. Domestic traffic, however, weakened, largely owing to strengthened travel restrictions in China.
Total demand for air travel in November 2021 was down 47 per cent compared to November 2019. This marked an uptick compared to October’s 48.9 per cent contraction from October 2019.
Domestic air travel deteriorated slightly in November after two consecutive monthly improvements. Domestic RPKs fell by 24.9 per cent versus 2019 compared with a 21.3 per cent decline in October. Primarily this was driven by China, where traffic fell 50.9 per cent compared to 2019, after several cities introduced stricter travel restrictions to contain (pre-Omicron) COVID outbreaks.
International passenger demand in November was 60.5% below November 2019, bettering the 64.8per cent decline recorded in October.
African airlines’ traffic fell 56.8per cent in November versus two years’ ago, improved over the 59.8per cent decline in October compared to October 2019. November capacity was down 49.6 per cent and load factor declined 10.1 percentage points to 60.3 per cent.
European carriers’ November international traffic declined 43.7 per cent versus November 2019, much improved compared to the 49.4 per cent decrease in October versus the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 36.3 per cent and load factor fell 9.7 percentage points to 74.3per cent.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw their November international traffic fall 89.5% compared to November 2019, slightly improved from the 92.0 per cent drop registered in October 2021 versus October 2019. Capacity dropped 80.0% and the load factor was down 37.8 percentage points to 42.2per cent, the lowest among regions.
Middle Eastern airlines had a 54.4per cent demand drop in November compared to November 2019, well up compared to the 60.9 per cent decrease in October, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 45.5per cent, and load factor slipped 11.9 percentage points to 61.3per cent. North American carriers experienced a 44.8 per cent traffic drop in November versus the 2019 period, significantly improved over the 56.7 per cent decline in October compared to October 2019. Capacity dropped 35.6 per cent, and load factor fell 11.6 percentage points to 69.6 per cent.
Latin American airlines saw a 47.2per cent drop in November traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, a marked upturn over the 54.6per cent decline in October compared to October 2019. November capacity fell 46.6 per cent and load factor dropped 0.9 percentage points to 81.3 per cent, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 14th consecutive month.