Airline passenger traffic is showing a more robust recovery, with revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) climbing by 76.2 percent in June, according to the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The strong performance, reported against a backdrop of continuing operational disruption caused mainly by staff shortages in markets such as Europe, were the first post-Covid figures from the trade group that compared traffic levels with the same month in 2021 instead of the recent 2019 benchmark.
The data released by IATA on August 4, showed international routes to have been the main driver of the bounce-back with these flights growing at an exceptional rate of 230 percent over June 2021 to reach 65 percent of June 2019 levels. By contrast, RPKs on domestic flights operated by IATA member carriers increasing by just 5.2 percent, while, nonetheless, standing at 81 percent of 2019 levels.
In the international markets tracked by IATA, Asia-Pacific carriers had the best numbers, with a staggering 429 percent uptick in June, while capacity rose 139 percent and load factors were boosted by 46 percentage points to almost 77 percent. North American airlines, which came out of Covid disruption sooner than those in other regions, had a less dramatic RPK increase of 169 percent, but also showed the strongest load factors of just under 88 percent.
In Europe, June RPKs were up by 234 percent, while capacity increased by 135 percent and load factors tipped just over 86 percent. The peak summer vacation period has seen continuing disruption in countries such as the UK, where British Airways this week felt compelled to suspend all ticket sales for short-haul flights through August 15 after being instructed by London Heathrow Airport that passenger numbers would have to be constrained.
Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic grew by 247 percent in June. By contrast, their counterparts in Latin America and Africa only logged increases of, respectively, 137 percent and 104 percent.
“Demand for air travel remains strong,” commented IATA director general Willie Walsh. “After two years of lockdowns and border restrictions people are taking advantage of the freedom to travel wherever they can.”
As passenger traffic levels rebounded strongly, cargo tonne kilometers fell back somewhat at 6.4 percent below the June 2021 levels. This appeared to reflect the tailing off in a trend for airlines to compensate for weak passenger demand by vying for freight business to replace it.