Dubai: International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Director General on Wednesday said that the strong recovery in domestic markets is proof that removal of travel restrictions will lead to a surge in demand.
“Unfortunately, that freedom still does not exist in most international markets. When it does, I’m confident we will see a similar resurgence in demand,” said Willie Walsh, in a statement.
Total demand for air travel in April 2021 - measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs - was down 65.4 per cent compared to April 2019. That was an improvement over the 66.9 per cent decline recorded in March 2021 versus March 2019. The better performance was driven by gains in most domestic markets.
Domestic demand was down 25.7 per cent, compared to pre-crisis levels (April 2019). All markets except Brazil and India showed improvement compared to March 2021, with both China and Russia reporting traffic growth compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Domestic traffic - once a major lifeline for Indian airlines such as Indigo, Spicejet, and Wadia Group-owned GoFirst (earlier known as GoAir) - has dried up due to state-level lockdowns. Passengers carried by domestic carriers between January and April fell nearly 12 per cent year-over-year to 291,000.
International passenger demand in April was 87.3 per cent below April 2019, little changed from the 87.8 per cent decline recorded in March 2021 (versus two years ago).
Meanwhile, Middle Eastern airlines posted an 82.9 per cent demand drop in April compared to April 2019, which was weaker than the 81.6 per cent decline in March, versus the same period in 2019. Capacity declined 65.3 per cent, and load factor fell 41.1 percentage points to 39.6 per cent.
“We have, for example, strong indications from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Koch Institute and others that vaccinated travelers pose very little risk to the local population,” said Walsh.
Data shows that pre-departure testing largely removes the risk of unvaccinated travelers importing COVID, said the industry body head.
“With indications that COVID-19 is becoming endemic, governments and industry must work together to rebuild global connectivity while managing the associated risks,” said Walsh.