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Air traffic has gone ‘from bad to worse’, reports Iata

Iata described global air traffic as going from “bad to worse” as it reported a fresh fall in traffic in January, with a decline in domestic travel in China dragging industry figures lower than in December.

Airline association Iata reported total demand in January down 72% against January 2019, two percentage points worse than in December.

But international passenger demand was 86% down on 2019 in January, just one point down on December, while domestic demand worldwide was down 47% – compared with 43% in December.

Iata chief economist Brian Pearce reported passenger load factors “hit an all-time low” in January, and warned: “We think the situation will get worse before it improves.”

China’s domestic traffic was down 34% in January compared with just 8.5% in December, “owing to stricter traffic controls amid several localised Covid-19 outbreaks”.

Pearce noted: “China’s domestic market weakened further in February because the Chinese New Year did not happen.”

Asia-Pacific airline traffic in January was down 95%, with Iata noting the region has suffered the steepest traffic decline in the world for seven consecutive months.

The average load factor in the region was barely 33% despite capacity falling 87% on 2019.

Europe’s carriers saw an 83% decline in traffic versus January 2019, but recorded an average load factor of 51% with capacity down 74%.

Middle East airlines saw demand down 82% in January, capacity fell 68%, and average load factors were just below 41%.

Traffic in North America was down 79% on 2019 and capacity down 60%, with an average load factor of 43%.

Latin America also saw a 79% decline in traffic and capacity was down 68%, but the average load factor of 55% was the highest of any region for a fourth consecutive month.

Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “2021 is starting off worse than 2020 ended and that is saying a lot.

“Even as vaccination programmes gather pace, new Covid variants are leading governments to increase travel restrictions.

“Financial prospects are worsening. We now expect the industry to burn through $75-$95 billion in cash this year. This is not something the industry will be able to endure without additional relief measures.”

De Juniac insisted: “It is critical governments build and share their restart plans along with the benchmarks that will guide them.”

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