The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has reported that it has detected signs of a recovery in air passenger demand, following a gigantic collapse in April. Air passenger demand during April was 94.3% lower than in April 2019, a fall never before seen in this statistical series since Iata (the representative body of the global airline industry) initiated it in 1990. This collapse was due to the almost total halting of domestic and international air traffic around the world, imposed by governments trying to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
“April was a disaster for aviation as air travel almost entirely stopped,” highlighted Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. “But April may also represent the nadir of the crisis. Flight numbers are increasing.”
This conclusion is based on the fact that, between April 21 (the bottom of the crisis, assuming there is not a global second wave of Covid-19) and May 27, the number of daily flights increased by 30%. This was off a very low base, and composed mainly of domestic operations, but it did suggest that aviation had begun a probably long process of recovery and restoration of air connectivity.
“Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions,” he pointed out. “And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets such as China, Germany and the US. These are positive signs as we start to rebuild the industry from a stand-still. The initial green shoots will take time – possibly years – to mature.”
The region which saw the deepest year-on-year fall in international air traffic in April was Africa, where the collapse came to 98.3%. Second worst was Europe, with 98.1%, followed by the Middle East (97.3%), North America (96.6%), Latin America (96%) and the Asia-Pacific (88.5%).
“For aviation, April was our cruellest month,” he said. “Governments had to take drastic action to slow the pandemic. But that has come with the economic cost of a traumatic global recession. Airlines will be key to the economic recovery. It is vital that the aviation industry is ready with bio-safety measures that passengers and air transport workers have confidence in.”
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (a specialised agency of the United Nations) had drawn up global guidelines for bio-safety in civil aviation. “We fully support its recommendations and look forward to working with governments for a well-coordinated implementation,” assured De Juniac.