The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released the air passenger analysis for the month of July 2021. According to the report, July 2021 has shown a significant increase of air traffic at national and international level compared to June 2021. However, the numbers are still notably lower than in pre-pandemic times due to the travel restrictions that are still in place in several countries. IATA reports that in July 2021, total air travel demand was 53.1% below July 2019. International passenger demand and domestic passenger demand were respectively 73.6% and 15.6% below July 2019. This data show a significant rebound compared to the previous month. In June 2021, the demand was still 60% below June 2019 levels, with international demand and domestic demand registering a decline of respectively 80.9% and 22.1% in June 2021 over June 2019.
As for international demand, all regions recorded improvements, with North American airlines boasting the smallest decline in international RPKs (revenue passenger kilometers). As for domestic demand, Russia reported the best result, with RPKs up 28.9% versus July 2019.
IATA’s Air Passenger Market Analysis provides further insights on international passenger markets. In Europe, airlines recorded a drop of 64.2% in July 2021 versus July 2019, improving the 77.0% decrease in June compared to June 2019. In the Asia-Pacific region, international traffic fell 94.2% in July 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. These numbers represent only a small improvement in comparison to June 2021, which registered a 94.7% drop versus two years ago. In the Middle East, air carriers recorded a decline of 74.5% in July 2021 compared to July 2019, improving the 79.2% drop in June 2021 versus June 2019. North American airlines saw a demand decline of 62.1% in July 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, significantly bettering the 69.4% decline in June 2021 versus June 2019 In Latin America, air traffic decreased by 66.3% in July 2021 versus the same period in 2019. In June 2021, Latin American airlines recorded a 69.8% decline compared to June 2019.
Due to the implementation of stricter lockdowns in response to the surge of Delta variant cases, Australia’s domestic air traffic worsened from a 51.4% decline in June (compared to June 2019) to a 75.4% decline in July (compared to July 2019). Finally, in the United States domestic traffic continued to recover in July (-7.7% compared to July 2019), bettering the 14% decline in June 2021 versus June 2019.
According to Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, the positive results registered in July show that people were eager to travel again during the summer. However, he casts a light on the ineffectiveness of border control measures that compromise the recovery of the air travel sector. “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” declared IATA’s Director General.
The Director General points out that the growing number of vaccinated passengers and the availability of testing should have been an incentive for governments to restore international air traffic. However, governments have missed this chance as they have continued to implement strict measures that obstacolate traveling. “It is clear that too many governments missed the opportunity to apply a risk-based approach to managing their borders,” said Walsh. “Economies and the labor force will pay the price for decisions that were made not based on science, but on political expediency,” he added.