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IATA: Completely Removing All Covid-19 Restrictions is the Way Forward

Passenger data for May released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that the recovery in air travel accelerated heading into the busy Northern Hemisphere summer travel season.

“Completely removing all Covid-19 restrictions is the way forward,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh, adding that Australia is the latest country to do so.

According to IATA’s data, total air traffic in May 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was up 83.1 percent compared to May 2021, largely driven by the strong recovery in international traffic. Global traffic is now at 68.7 percent of pre-crisis levels, the data shows.

“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,” Walsh said.

Air passenger market - May 2022. Source: IATA

Air passenger market – May 2022. Source: IATA

International traffic rose 325.8 percent versus May 2021. The easing of travel restrictions in most parts of Asia is accelerating the recovery of international travel. May 2022 international RPKs reached 64.1 percent of May 2019 levels.

Domestic traffic for May 2022 was up 0.2 percent compared to the year-ago period.

According to IATA, significant improvements in many markets were masked by a 73.2 percent year-on-year decline in the Chinese domestic market due to Covid-19 related restrictions. May 2022 domestic traffic was 76.7 percent of May 2019.

“The major exception to the optimism of this rebound in travel is China… 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,” IATA’s director general highlighted.

Photo source: IATA

Photo source: IATA

Referring to strains in the system in some European and North American hubs, Walsh underlined that “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,” he said.

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  1. Andy Reply

    Great news about the recovery of international travel. I think what’s also key is that the easing of all restrictions really seems to have no impact on case numbers. The final hurdle to getting back to normal is for the US and Canada to remove the outdated vaccine mandate for international visitors and let the economy benefit. Those that are double jabbed, were likely vaccinated 12+ months ago and now are as at risk as those that aren’t vaccinated but have likely had Covid during that period anyway. These governments are too focused on vaccinating the world rather than accessing what the real residual risk is at this stage.

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