Travel Industry News at TravelNewsAsia.com since 1997
Fri, 8 July 2022

Aviation: International RPKs Up 325.8%

(08 July 2022, 11:23 +07)  According to IATA's passenger data for May 2022, the recovery in air travel accelerated heading into the traditionally busy Northern Hemisphere summer travel season.

Total traffic in May 2022, measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), was up 83.1% compared to May 2021, largely driven by the strong recovery in international traffic. Global traffic is now at 68.7% of pre-crisis levels.

Domestic traffic for May 2022 was up 0.2% compared to the year-ago period. Significant improvements in many markets were masked by a 73.2% year-on-year decline in the Chinese domestic market due to COVID19-related restrictions. May 2022 domestic traffic was 76.7% of May 2019.

International traffic rose 325.8% versus May 2021, boosted by the easing of travel restrictions in most parts of Asia. May 2022 international RPKs reached 64.1% of May 2019 levels.

NokScoot B777 reg: HS-XBC (the airline ceased operations in 2020). Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.
NokScoot B777 reg: HS-XBC. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com

The travel recovery continues to gather momentum. People need to travel. And when governments remove COVID19 restrictions, they do, said Willie Walsh, IATAs Director General. Many major international route areas including within Europe, and the Middle East-North America routes - are already exceeding pre-COVID19 levels. Completely removing all COVID19 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.

Asia-Pacific airlines had a 453.3% rise in May traffic compared to May 2021, 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 regions markets, except China.

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.

Traffic of Middle Eastern airlines rose 317.2% in May 2022 compared to May 2021. Capacity rose 115.7% versus the same month in 2021, and load factor climbed 37.1 percentage points to 76.8%. The progressive re-opening of Asian markets is boosting traffic through Gulf hubs.

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 travelers 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.

Latin American airlines May traffic rose 180.5% compared to the same month in 2021. May capacity rose 135.3% and load factor increased 13.5 percentage points to 83.4%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 20th consecutive month. Some routes, including those from Central America to Europe and to North America, are outperforming 2019 levels.

African airlines had a 134.9% rise in May 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.

Domestic Passenger Markets

Indias domestic RPKs rose 405.7% year-on-year in May, compared to the 78.6% increase recorded in April. In May 2021, India had experienced the countrys most severe COVID19 outbreak.

US domestic traffic was up 26.1% in May, compared to May 2021.

2022 vs 2019

The strong results in most international and domestic markets compared to a year ago is helping passenger demand catch-up to 2019 levels. Total RPKs in May 2022 reached 68.7% of May 2019 levels, which was the best performance against pre-COVID-19 travel so far this year.

The recovery in travel markets is no less than impressive. 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, said Walsh. 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 COVID19 policy flipflops 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-COVID19 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-COVID19 as it was in the century before.

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