The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the recovery in air passenger volumes stalled towards the end of the year, adding that industry-wide revenue passenger-kilometers (RPKs) fell by -70.3% year-on-year in November – the same contraction as in the previous month.
According to the statistics compiled by IATA Economics using direct airline reporting complemented by estimates, including the use of FlightRadar24 data provided under license, African airlines’ traffic sank 76.7% in November year-on-year.
According to IATA, the clearinghouse that represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic said little changed from a 77.2% drop in October, but recorded the best performance among the regions, just as capacity contracted 63.7% while load factor fell 25.2 percentage points to 45.2 percent.
Carriers based in Africa reported the most resilient outcome for another month, with international RPKs down 76.7% year-on-year, compared to a 77.2% annual fall in October. The performance according to IATA was driven by smaller RPK declines on Africa-Middle East routes.
The poor performance was attributed to the resurgence of the virus and associated restrictions weighed on air travel recovery progress across many domestic and international markets.
IATA statistics cover international and domestic scheduled air traffic for IATA member and non-member airlines.
In 2019, total passenger traffic market shares by region of carriers in terms of RPK are Asia-Pacific 34.6%, Europe 26.8%, North America 22.3%, the Middle East 9.1%, Latin America 5.1%, and Africa 2.1%.
Europe remained the most severely impacted region due to strict containment measures. That said, recovery accelerated for another month in Latin America.
While African carriers battled with the slump in air traffic, European carriers had their own share of decline. They saw an 87.0% decline in traffic in November versus a year ago, which worsened from an 83% decline in October. Capacity withered 76.5% and load factor fell by 37.4 percentage points to 46.6%.
Middle Eastern airlines’ demand plummeted 86.0% in November year-to-year, which was improved from an 86.9% demand drop in October. Capacity fell 71.0%, and load factor declined 37.9 percentage points to 35.3%.
North American carriers on the other hand had an 83.0% traffic drop in November, versus an 87.8% decline in October. Capacity dived 66.1%, and load factor dropped 40.5 percentage points to 40.8%.
Asia Pacific airlines remained at the bottom of the contraction chart for the 5th consecutive month, with international RPKs down at 95% year-on-year.
IATA’s Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Alexandre de Juniac said the already tepid recovery in air travel demand came to a full stop in November. “That’s because governments responded to new outbreaks with even more severe travel restrictions and quarantine measures. This is clearly inefficient. Such measures increase hardship for millions. Vaccines offer the long-term solution”. “In the meantime, testing is the best way that we see to stop the spread of the virus and start the economic recovery. How much more anguish do people need to go through—job losses, mental stress—before governments will understand that?” added de Juniac.