The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced passenger data for September 2022 showing that the recovery in air travel continues to be strong, though demand for cargo has softened.

Total traffic in September 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) rose 57.0 per cent compared to September 2021. Globally, traffic is now at 73.8 per cent of September 2019 levels.

Domestic traffic for September 2022 was up 6.9 per cent compared to the year-ago period. Total September 2022 domestic traffic was at 81 per cent of the September 2019 level.

International traffic climbed 122.2 per cent versus September 2021. September 2022 international RPKs reached 69.9 per cent of September 2019 levels. All markets reported strong growth, led by Asia-Pacific.

Covid recovery

“Even with economic and geopolitical uncertainties, the demand for air transport continues to recover ground. The outlier is still China with its pursuit of a zero Covid strategy keeping borders largely closed and creating a demand roller coaster ride for its domestic market, with September being down 46.4 per cent on the previous year. That is in sharp contrast to the rest of Asia-Pacific, which, despite China’s dismal performance, posted a 464.8 per cent increase for international traffic compared to the year-ago period,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

However, global freight demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs*), fell 10.6 per cent compared to September 2021 (-10.6 per cent also for international operations), but continued to track at near pre-pandemic levels (-3.6 per cent ).

Capacity was 2.4 per cent above September 2021 (+5.0 per cent for international operations) but still 7.4 per cent below September 2019 levels (-8.1 per cent for international operations).

Industry headwinds

“While air cargo’s activity continues to track near to 2019 levels, volumes remain below 2021’s exceptional performance as the industry faces some headwinds,” Walsh said.

“At the consumer level, with travel restrictions lifting post-pandemic, people are likely to spend more on vacation travel and less on e-commerce.

“And at the macro-level, increasing recession warnings are likely to have a negative impact on the global flows of goods and services, balanced slightly by a stabilisation of oil prices.

“Against this backdrop, air cargo is bearing up well. And a strategic slow-down in capacity growth from 6.3 per cent in August to 2.4 per cent in September demonstrates the flexibility the industry has in adjusting to economic developments.”
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