IATA has sounded the alarm about the varying pace of the traffic recovery, as cargo and domestic continue to rebound strongly while international travel remains stifled by border restrictions.

“It’s not where we want to be… and it’s not where we need to be,” IATA director general Willie Walsh says about the limited progress being made with international travel.

He adds that clear successes in the rollout of vaccines should result in the dismantling of travel restrictions and the winding-down of many testing requirements.


Source: Swissport

Cargo demand is above 2019 levels, in stark contrast to the passenger market

Despite this, Walsh notes: “The recovery has definitely started in the second half [of 2021]. We’ve got to take positives from that.” While progress in some areas, such as transatlantic, are disappointing, “we are at a point where it’s reasonable to be optimistic in most markets”.

Figures released by IATA for June show total demand for air travel, as measured in revenue passenger-kilometres, down 60% in the month, a marginal improvement from May. Within this, international travel was down 85% compared with two years ago.

Domestic traffic was down by just 22% versus pre-crisis levels. Walsh comments that without the restrictions placed on internal flights in India, this figure would be “significantly ahead”.

In the lead is air cargo, which is up by 9.9% on two years ago, as measured by cargo tonne-kilometres, while capacity was 11% lower.

“With first-half demand 8% above pre-crisis levels, air cargo is a revenue lifeline for many airlines as they struggle with border closures that continue to devastate the international passenger business,” says Walsh. “Importantly, the strong first-half performance looks set to continue.”