The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported that both international and domestic travel demand showed significant momentum in July 2021 compared to June - although demand remained far below pre-pandemic levels - whilst global air cargo continued its strong growth trend.
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Extensive government-imposed travel restrictions continue to delay recovery in international markets.
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to July 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
Total demand for air travel in July 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 53.1% compared to July 2019. This is a significant improvement from June when demand was 60% below June 2019 levels.
International passenger demand in July was 73.6% below July 2019, bettering the 80.9% decline recorded in June 2021 versus two years ago. All regions showed improvement and North American airlines posted the smallest decline in international RPKs (July traffic data from Africa was not available).
Total domestic demand was down 15.6% versus pre-crisis levels (July 2019), compared to the 22.1% decline recorded in June over June 2019. Russia posted the best result for another month, with RPKs up 28.9% vs. July 2019.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General said: “July results reflect people’s eagerness to travel during the Northern Hemisphere summer. Domestic traffic was back to 85% of pre-crisis levels, but international demand has only recovered just over a quarter of 2019 volumes. The problem is border control measures. Government decisions are not being driven by data, particularly with respect to the efficacy of vaccines. People traveled where they could, and that was primarily in domestic markets. A recovery of international travel needs governments to restore the freedom to travel. At a minimum, vaccinated travelers should not face restrictions. That would go a long way to reconnecting the world and reviving the travel and tourism sectors.
“As the Northern Hemisphere summer travel season draws to a close it is clear that too many governments missed the opportunity to apply a risk-based approach to managing their borders. The growing number of fully vaccinated travelers and the prevalence of testing provided the chance to restore international connectivity and bring much needed relief to economies that are heavily reliant on travel and tourism. Instead, governments continued to behave as if it was the summer of 2020. Economies and the labour force will pay the price for decisions that were made not based on science but on political expediency. Governments have rightly urged their populations to be vaccinated; now governments need to have confidence in the benefits of vaccinations, including the freedom to travel.”
IATA data for global air cargo markets showed that demand continued its strong growth trend.
As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons below are to July 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.
Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs*), was up 8.6% compared to July 2019. Overall growth remains strong compared to the long-term average growth trend of around 4.7%.
The pace of growth slowed slightly compared to June which saw demand increase 9.2% (against pre-COVID-19 levels).
Capacity continues to recover but is still 10.3% down compared to July 2019.
Economic conditions continue to support air cargo growth:
The July export orders component of the manufacturing Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs) was 52.7, indicating a short-term boost to demand if those orders are shipped by air.
The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail season.
Walsh said: “July was another solid month for global air cargo demand. Economic conditions indicate that the strong growth trend will continue into the peak year-end demand period. The Delta variant of COVID-19 could bring some risks. If supply chains and production lines are disrupted, there is potential for a knock-on effect for air cargo shipments.”