In January 2021 African airlines’ traffic rose 17.9% compared to 2020 figures as domestic and international air travel recover.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that domestic and international air travel continues to recover steadily, despite the imposition of travel restrictions following the emergence of Omicron last November.
AIR TRAVEL INDUSTRY RECOVERS
Total demand for air travel in January 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was up 82.3% compared to January 2021. However, even with figures adjusted for seasonal travel, was down 4.9% compared to December 2021. International travel demand increased by a staggering 165.6% but fell by 2.2% compared to December 2021. Domestic travel (measured only within the major markets) was up 41.5% compared to the 2020 figures, but decreased by 7.2% from the previous month, with all figures once more adjusted for seasonal travel.
Unfortunately, passenger demand remains far below the pandemic levels. Total RPKs in January were down 49.6% compared to figures from January 2019. International traffic was down 62.4%, with domestic traffic off by 26.5% relative to the previous month.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General commented:
“The recovery in air travel continued in January, despite hitting a speed bump called Omicron. Strengthened border controls did not stop the spread of the variant. But where population immunity was strong, the public health systems were not overwhelmed. Many governments are now adjusting COVID-19 policies to align with those for other endemic viruses. This includes lifting travel restrictions that have had such a devastating impact on lives, economies and the freedom to travel.”
On our own continent, it’s clear that steady growth is happening, despite Africa still being the smallest air traffic market (making up just 1.9% of the global share). African airlines’ traffic rose 17.9% in January 2022 versus January 2021. This was a slowdown compared to the 26.3% increase from December 2020 to December 2021.
Walsh is feeling positive:
“The past few weeks have seen a dramatic shift by many governments around the world to ease or remove COVID-19-related travel restrictions and requirements as the disease enters its endemic phase. It’s vital that this process continue and even accelerate, to more quickly restore damaged global supply chains and enable people to resume their lives. One step to encourage a return to normality is to remove mask mandates for air travel. It makes no sense to continue to require masks on airplanes when they are no longer being required in shopping malls, theatres or offices. Aircraft are equipped with highly sophisticated hospital quality filtration systems and have much higher air flow and air exchange rates than most other indoor environments where mask mandates already have been removed.”
Despite a positive outlook overall, there are industry concerns around how the Russia-Ukraine conflict will affect the global market outlook. We will have to keep our eyes trained on developments!