Slower Passenger Recovery Was Disappointing For October: IATA

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery of passenger demand continued to be disappointingly slow in October.

Passenger Demand in October

  • Total demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 70.6% compared to October 2019. This was just a modest improvement from the 72.2% year-to-year decline recorded in September. Capacity was down 59.9% compared to a year ago and load factor fell 21.8 percentage points to 60.2%.
  • International passenger demand in October was down 87.8% compared to October 2019, virtually unchanged from the 88.0% year-to-year decline recorded in September. Capacity was 76.9% below previous year levels, and load factor shrank 38.3 percentage points to 42.9%.
  • Domestic demand drove what little recovery there was, with October domestic traffic down 40.8% compared to the prior year. This was improved from a 43.0% year-to-year decline in September. Capacity was 29.7% below 2019 levels and the load factor dropped 13.2 percentage points to 70.4%.

“Fresh outbreaks of COVID-19 and governments’ continued reliance on heavy-handed quarantines resulted in another catastrophic month for air travel demand. While the pace of recovery is faster in some regions than others, the overall picture for international travel is grim. This uneven recovery is more pronounced in domestic markets, with China’s domestic market having nearly recovered, while most others remain deeply depressed,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Passenger - IATA Alexandre de Juniac - aviatorsbuzz
IATA Director General & CEO Alexandre de Juniac. Source: IATA

IATA: The Bottom Line

“This crisis is unrelenting. Our latest economic outlook is for airlines to lose $118.5 billion this year, or $66 for every passenger carried. Assuming borders re-open by mid-2021, the industry will ‘only’ lose $38.7 billion in 2021,” de Juniac said.

The IATA Director General and CEO said now is the time for governments to step up. The $173 billion of support provided to date has enabled the industry to survive, but more is required to carry the industry through to next summer.

IATA has identified a range of market stimulation options that will support the viability of air routes while encouraging people to travel. Without aviation’s $3.5 trillion contribution to global GDP, there can be no broader economic recovery,” said de Juniac.

IATA meanwhile also urged governments to exempt crews from COVID-19 testing that is applied to air travelers, The Gulf News said.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) guidelines specifically recommend that crew members should not be subject to screening or restrictions applicable to other travelers. Furthermore, health screening methods for crew members should be as “non-invasive as possible.”

An increasing number of states are applying the same public health measures for crew that are applied to the general traveling public, said IATA. This includes providing proof of a negative COVID test prior to departure and in some cases a second negative COVID test is required upon arrival.

The current measures “not only contravene the recommended ICAO global guidance, they fail to take into account the fact that interactions with the local population are minimized,” said Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Safety and Flight Operations.

Passenger safety

“Airlines are willing to invest in safety that delivers meaningful outcomes, but that is not the case with unilateral, uncoordinated testing requirements,” said Meyer. “States should acknowledge that crew present a different risk profile than passengers and that more flexibility and relaxation of testing requirements and/or quarantine could be considered including exemptions,” he added.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which in June had forecast $100 billion in losses for the two-year period, said it now projects a $118.5 billion deficit this year alone, and a further $38.7 billion for 2021.

The bleak outlook underscores challenges still facing the sector despite upbeat news on development of COVID-19 vaccines, whose global deployment will continue throughout next year.

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