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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported on Sunday that the global passenger traffic will continue to recover in March 2022, despite the impact of the ongoing geopolitical tension and the emergence of COVID-19’s latest variant, Omicron.

 “We have returned to year-on-year traffic comparisons, instead of comparisons with the 2019 period, unless otherwise noted,” IATA stated, noting that “owing to the low traffic base in 2021, some markets will show very high year-on-year growth rates, even if the size of these markets is still significantly smaller than they were in 2019.”

The report revealed a steady recovery in passenger demand, underlining that the impact of the unrest in Ukraine remained “limited,” and that Omicron-related effects were “confined to Asian domestic markets.”

A steady recovery

Total traffic in March 2022 measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) was up 76.0% compared to March 2021. While lower than the 115.9% rise in February year-over-year demand volumes in March were the closest to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, at 41% below, IATA reported.

Domestic traffic was up 11.7% compared to 2021, far below the 59.4% year-over-year improvement recorded in February, due to Omicron-related lockdowns in China. Meanwhile, March domestic RPKs were down 23.2% compared to March 2019.

On a global level, international RPKs rose 285.3% versus March 2021, exceeding the 259.2% gain experienced in February compared to 2021, with a distinct performance boost across most regions, meanwhile, March 2022 international RPKs were down 51.9% compared to 2019.

Ease of restrictions

On his part, IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh attributed the surge in demand to worldwide ease of travel restrictions. “With barriers to travel coming down in most places, we are seeing the long-expected surge in pent-up demand finally being realised.”

Walsh further highlighted that long delays at airports with insufficient resources to handle the growing numbers “must be addressed urgently to avoid frustrating consumer enthusiasm for air travel.”

Middle East airlines

IATA further revealed that Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 245.8% in March compared to March 2021, an improvement compared to the 218.2% increase in February 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.

Moreover, March capacity rose 96.6% compared to 2021, and load factor climbed 31.1% to 72.1%.

“The ongoing recovery in air travel is excellent news for the global economy, for friends and families whose forced separations are being ended, and for the millions of people who depend on air transport for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, some government actions are emerging as key impediments to recovery. This is demonstrated most dramatically in the Netherlands,” Walsh added.


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