The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that passenger traffic fell in March compared to pre-Covid levels (March 2019), but rose compared to the immediate month prior (February 2021). 

    Total demand for air travel in March (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 67.2 per cent compared to March 2019. That was an improvement over the 74.9 per cent decline recorded in February 2021 versus February 2019. The better performance was driven by gains in domestic markets, particularly China. International traffic remained largely restricted.

    International passenger demand in March was 87.8 per cent below March 2019, a very small improvement from the 89 per cent decline recorded in February 2021 versus two years ago

    Total domestic demand was down 32.3 per cent versus pre-crisis levels, greatly improved over February, when domestic traffic was down 51.2 per cent versus the 2019 period. All markets except Brazil and India showed improvement compared to February 2021, with China being the key contributor, as already noted. 

    “The positive momentum we saw in some key domestic markets in March is an indication of the strong recovery we are anticipating in international markets as travel restrictions are lifted. People want and need to fly. And we can be optimistic that they will do so when restrictions are removed,” commented IATA’s director general, Willie Walsh. 

    Regional breakdown

    Asia-Pacific: international traffic was down 94.8 per cent compared to March 2019, barely better than the 95.4 per cent decline registered in February this year versus February 2019. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for the ninth consecutive month. Capacity was down 87 per cent and the load factor sank by 48.6 percent to 31.9 per cent, the lowest of any region.

    Europe: carriers recorded an 88.3 per cent decline in traffic in March versus March 2019, just slightly ahead of the 89.1 per cent decline in February compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 80 per cent and load factor fell by 35 per cent to 49.4 per cent. 

    Middle East: demand fell 81.6 per cent in March compared to March 2019, improved over an 83.1 per cent demand drop in February, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 67.2 per cent and load factor declined 32.3 percentage points to 41.3 per cent.

    North America: carriers saw March traffic sink by 80.9 per cent compared to the 2019 period, a gain compared to the 83.4 per cent decline in February compared to two years ago. Capacity sagged 62.6 per cent and load factor dropped 41 per cent to 42.9 per cent.

    Latin America: airlines experienced an 82.4 per cent demand drop in March, compared to the same month in 2019, a slight improvement compared to the 83.7 per cent decline in February compared to February 2019. March capacity was down 77.4 per cent compared to March 2019 and load factor dropped 18.1 per cent to 63.6 per cent, highest among the regions for the sixth straight month.

    Africa: traffic sank 73.7 per cent in March versus March two years ago, marking a deterioration compared to a 72.3 per cent decline recorded in February compared to February 2019. March capacity contracted 61.8 per cent versus March 2019 and load factor fell 22.3 percentage points to 49 per cent.

    Last month, it was announced that from now on passengers traveling to Singapore will be able to use the IATA Travel Pass to share their pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test results upon check-in with their airline, as well as on arrival at the immigration checkpoints at Changi Airport. This is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and IATA to facilitate seamless and efficient travel through digital certificates of Covid-19 tests.