Air traffic

IATA: international travel drives air traffic recovery in May 2022

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced passenger data for May 2022 showing that the recovery in air travel has accelerated ahead of the busy Northern Hemisphere summer travel season.

Note: We’ve reverted to year-over-year traffic comparisons, instead of 2019 comparisons, unless otherwise noted. Due to the low traffic base in 2021, some markets will show very high year-over-year growth rates, even though the size of these markets is still significantly smaller than it was in 2019.

  • Total traffic in May 2022 (measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometers or RPK) increased by 83.1% compared to May 2021, largely driven by the strong recovery in international traffic. Global traffic is now at 68.7% of pre-crisis levels.
  • Domestic traffic for May 2022 was up 0.2% from the prior year period. Significant improvements in many markets were masked by a 73.2% year-over-year decline in China’s domestic market due to COVID-19 restrictions. Domestic traffic in May 2022 was 76.7% of that in May 2019.
  • International traffic increased by 325.8% compared to May 2021. The easing of travel restrictions in most parts of Asia is accelerating the recovery of international travel. May 2022 international RPKs reached 64.1% of May 2019 levels.

The travel recovery continues to gain momentum. People need to travel. And when governments remove COVID-19 restrictions, they do. Many major international route areas – including in Europe and on Middle East-North America routes – are already exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels. Complete removal of all COVID-19 restrictions is the way forward, with Australia the latest to do so this week. The main exception to the optimism of this rebound in travel is China, which saw a dramatic 73.2% drop in domestic travel year-on-year. Its continued zero COVID policy is out of step with the rest of the world and this shows in the considerably slower recovery of China-related travel,said Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA.

May 2022
(% FROM YEAR TO YEAR)
part of the world1?? rpk interrogate PLF (%-PT)?2 PLF (LEVEL)?3

Total market

100%

83.1%

52.8%

13.1%

79.1%

Africa

1.9%

124.9%

76.8%

14.9%

69.6%

Asia Pacific

27.5%

-4.7%

-8.2%

2.6%

69.6%

Europe

25.0%

258.8%

159.1%

22.4%

80.7%

Latin America

6.5%

99.3%

89.5%

4.0%

80.7%

Middle East

6.6%

279.6%

103.5%

35.4%

76.2%

North America

32.6%

56.3%

36.6%

10.8%

86.0%

1) % of industry RPK in 2021 2) Annual change in load factor 3) Level of load factor

International passenger markets

European carriers » May traffic increased by 412.3% compared to May 2021. Capacity increased by 221.3% and the load factor climbed by 30.1 percentage points to reach 80.6%. The impact of the war in Ukraine remained limited to the areas directly affected.

Asia Pacific Airlines recorded a 453.3% increase in traffic in May compared to May 2021. This is significantly higher than the 295.3% year-on-year gain recorded in April 2022. Capacity increased by 118.8% and the Load factor increased by 43.6 percentage points to reach 72.1%. Improvements in the region are driven by reduced restrictions in most markets in the region, with the exception of China.

middle eastern airlines traffic increased by 317.2% in May compared to May 2021. May capacity increased by 115.7% compared to the period of the previous year, and the load factor climbed by 37.1 percentage points to reach 76.8%. The gradual reopening of Asian markets is boosting traffic via the Gulf hubs.

North American carriers experienced a 203.4% increase in traffic in May compared to the 2021 period. Capacity increased by 101.1% and the load factor increased by 27.1 percentage points to reach 80.3% . With most restrictions for travelers from this region removed, tourism and a strong willingness to travel continue to drive the international recovery as several other route areas are now outperforming 2019 results.

latin american airlines May traffic increased by 180.5% compared to the same month in 2021. May capacity increased by 135.3% and load factor increased by 13.5 percentage points to 83.4% , which was the highest load factor among regions for the 20th consecutive month. Some routes, including those from Central America to Europe and to North America, exceed 2019 levels.

African Airlines recorded a 134.9% increase in May RPKs compared to a year ago. May 2022 capacity increased 78.5% and load factor climbed 16.4 percentage points to 68.4%, the lowest among regions.

Domestic passenger markets

May 2022
(% YEAR O YEAR)
part of the world1?? rpk interrogate PLF (%-PT)?2 PLF (LEVEL)?3

Domestic

62.3%

0.2%

-3.3%

2.9%

79.8%

Dom. Australia

0.8%

34.7%

23.1%

6.5%

75.6%

Domestic Brazil

1.9%

73.1%

89.6%

-7.1%

74.8%

PR Dom China

17.8%

-73.2%

-64.7%

-18.8%

59.1%

inland india

2.2%

405.7%

205.7%

32.4%

81.8%

domestic japan

1.1%

132.7%

70.7%

15.2%

56.9%

national united states

25.6%

26.1%

15.6%

7.3%

88.7%

1) % of industry RPK in 2021 2) Year-over-year change in load factor 3) Level of load factor

india domestic RPKs rose 405.7% year-on-year in May, compared to a 78.6% increase recorded in April. In May 2021, India experienced the most severe outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

WE domestic traffic increased by 26.1% in May compared to May 2021.

2022 versus 2019

Strong results in most international and domestic markets compared to a year ago are helping passenger demand catch up to 2019 levels. Total RPKs in May 2022 reached 68.7% of May 2019 levels , which was the best performance against pre-COVID-19 travel so far this year.

Air Passenger Market Snapshot – May 2022 vs Same Month 2019

part of the world1?? rpk interrogate PLF (%-PT)?2 PLF (LEVEL)?3

Total market

100%

-31.3%

-28.9%

-2.7%

79.1%

International

37.7%

-35.9%

-34.3%

-1.9%

78.6%

Domestic

62.3%

-23.3%

-19.2%

-4.2%

79.8%

The essential

The recovery in travel markets is no less than impressive. As we accelerate towards the peak of the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, tensions in the system are appearing in certain European and North American hubs. No one wants to see passengers suffer from delays or cancellations. But passengers can be sure that solutions are being implemented urgently. Airlines, airports and governments are working together, however, building the workforce needed to meet growing demand will take time and patience in the few places where bottlenecks are the more serious.

In the longer term, governments need to improve their understanding of how aviation works and work more closely with airports and airlines. Having created so much uncertainty with the flip-flops of COVID-19 policy and shunned most opportunities to work in unison based on global standards, their actions have done little to enable a surge in power. smoothness of activity. And it is unacceptable that the industry is now facing a potential punitive regulatory deluge as several governments fulfill their post-COVID-19 regulatory calendars. Aviation has done its best when governments and industry have worked together to agree and implement global standards. This axiom is as true after COVID-19 as it was in the previous century,said Walsh.

Read the latest Passenger market analysis (pdf)

Press release No 36, Geneva – July 7, 2022