The progressive reopening of Asian markets is boosting traffic through GCC hubs such as Doha and Dubai, IATA’s latest data reveal.
Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 317.2% in May compared to May 2021, IATA said.
May capacity rose 115.7% versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 37.1 percentage points to 76.8%.
IATA’s passenger data for May 2022 showed that the recovery in air travel accelerated heading into the busy Northern Hemisphere summer travel season.
Asia-Pacific airlines had a 453.3% rise in May traffic compared to May 2021. This is significantly higher than the 295.3% year-on-year gain registered in April 2022.
Capacity rose 118.8% and the load factor was up 43.6 percentage points to 72.1%. Improvements in the region are being driven by reduced restrictions in most of the region’s markets, except China.
African airlines had a 134.9% rise in May revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) versus a year ago. May 2022 capacity was up 78.5% and load factor climbed 16.4 percentage points to 68.4%, the lowest among regions.
European carriers’ May traffic rose 412.3% versus May 2021. Capacity rose 221.3%, and load factor climbed 30.1 percentage points to 80.6%. The impact of the war in Ukraine remained limited to areas directly impacted.
North American carriers experienced a 203.4% traffic rise in May versus the 2021 period. Capacity rose 101.1%, and load factor climbed 27.1 percentage points to 80.3%.
With most restrictions removed for travellers from this region, tourism and a high willingness to travel continue to foster the international recovery as several other routes areas are now outperforming 2019 results.
IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh said: “The travel recovery continues to gather momentum. People need to travel. And when governments remove Covid-19 restrictions, they do. Many major international route areas – including within Europe and the Middle East-North America routes – are already exceeding pre-Covid-19 levels.
“Completely removing all Covid-19 restrictions is the way forward, with Australia being the latest to do so this week. The major exception to the optimism of this rebound in travel is China, which saw a dramatic 73.2% fall in domestic travel compared to the previous year.
“Its continuing zero-Covid policy is out-of-step with the rest of the world and it shows in the dramatically slower recovery of China-related travel.”
According to Walsh, the “recovery in travel markets is no less than impressive.”
He said: “As we accelerate towards the peak summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, strains in the system are appearing in some European and North American hubs. Nobody wants to see passengers suffering from delays or cancellations. But passengers can be confident that solutions are being urgently implemented. Airlines, airports and governments are working together; however, standing up the workforce needed to meet growing demand will take time and require patience in the few locations where the bottlenecks are the most severe.
“In the longer term, governments must improve their understanding of how aviation operates and work more closely with airports and airlines. Having created so much uncertainty with knee-jerk Covid-19 policy flip-flops and avoiding most opportunities to work in unison based on global standards, their actions did little to enable a smooth ramping-up of activity.
“And it is unacceptable that the industry is now facing a potential punitive regulatory deluge as several governments fill their post-Covid-19 regulatory calendars. Aviation has delivered its best when governments and industry work together to agree and implement global standards. That axiom is as true post-Covid-19 as it was in the century before.”