IATA optimistic after March growth but cautions over supply issues and strikes

Willie Walsh

Domestic air traffic revenues continued to recover last month with a year-on-year rise of a third, according to the latest IATA data.

The global aviation body expressed optimism that the positive trends will continue as peak summer travel season looms in the northern hemisphere.

However, it said airlines will struggle to meet rising demand due to staff shortages, supply chain challenges and delayed aircraft deliveries.

And the association said strikes by air traffic controllers are also impacting the sector, something it described as “unacceptable” and not something that should be tolerated by the authorities.

The increase took global domestic RPKs (Revenue Passenger Kilometres) to 98.9 per cent of the levels seen pre-pandemic in the same month in 2019.

Total global traffic for the month stood 88% of 2019 levels, while International traffic was 81.6 per cent after a 68.9 per cent monthly rise. Load factors exceeded those in March 2019.

Highlights from IATA’s domestic data included traffic in Brazil rising 8 per cent in March compared to a year ago to fractionally below pre-pandemic levels.

March also saw Indian airlines’ domestic demand climb 20.3 per cent and was 10 per cent above the March 2019 levels.

Willie Walsh IATA director general said: “The calendar year first quarter ended on a strong note for air travel demand.

“Domestic markets have been near their pre-pandemic levels for months. And for international travel two key way points were topped.

“First, demand increased by 3.5 percentage points compared to the previous month’s growth, to reach 81.6% of pre-COVID levels.

“This was led by a near-tripling of demand for Asia-Pacific carriers as China’s re-opening took hold. And efficiency is improving as international load factors reached 81.3%.

“Even more importantly, ticket sales for both domestic and international travel give every indication that strong growth will continue into the peak northern hemisphere summer travel season.”

Walsh added: “As traveller expectations build towards the peak northern hemisphere summer travel season, airlines are doing their best to meet the desire and need to fly.

“Unfortunately, a lack of capacity means that some of those travellers may be disappointed.

“Part of this capacity shortfall is attributable to the widely reported labour shortages impacting many parts of the aviation value chain, as well as supply chain issues affecting the aircraft manufacturing sector that is resulting in aircraft delivery delays.

“However, a significant share of recent flight cancellations, primarily in Europe, are owing to job actions by air traffic controllers and others.

“These irresponsible actions resulted in thousands of unnecessary cancellations in March. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the authorities.”

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