IATA Data Analysis Shows Improvement In The Air Travel Industry After COVID-19

According to a recent IATA Data Analysis comparing the airline market change with pre-pandemic conditions, the recovery momentum noted previously has continued throughout the summer of 2023. According to the International Air Transport Association, the aviation industry has constantly grown for the last few years, but only this year has it become close to a full recovery.

Before delving into the data, it is essential to define RPK (Revenue Passenger Kilometers), sometimes abbreviated as RPM (Revenue Passenger Miles). This metric is calculated using the formula RPK (RPM) = P (number of paying passengers) x D (distance travelled in kilometres). It is a crucial indicator as it reflects the production capacity of the airline and is often synonymous with airline traffic, demonstrating the actual demand for flight services.

IATA Data Analysis Reports Industry-Wide Revenue

2023 can be considered the first year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which marked the restoration of airline revenues level compared to 2019. In the spring of 2023, actual global air revenue exceeded 700 billion dollars. However, the seasonally adjusted revenue trend is still lower than the pre-pandemic one.

Global air passengers, revenue-passengerkilometers (RPKs), billions per month ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics
Global air passengers, revenue-passenger kilometres (RPKs), billions per month. ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics

Comparing the percentage change in the revenue change between 2019 and 2023, it is visible that only domestic airline revenue has exceeded the initial levels of airline income. Despite an improving trend, international revenue still shows a negative change compared with 2019. The positive side is that this situation can change in 2024, given the strong growing trend.

Global domestic and international revenuepassenger-kilometers (RPKs), YoY% change vs. 2019 ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics
Global domestic and international revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs), YoY% change vs. 2019. ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics

Comparing RPK of June & July 2019 and 2023.

According to IATA’s Air Passenger Market Analysis, several domestic markets saw their RPK indicators increase in June and July of 2023, approaching levels seen in the pre-pandemic months of 2019. The People’s Republic of China market experienced the highest growth, with an RPK increase of over 15% compared to the same period in 2019. The only other domestic market with an increase of more than 5% was Brazil, but this was only when comparing June 2023 to 2019. In contrast, all other domestic markets in the dataset did not exhibit such substantial growth. Australia’s domestic market even experienced a decline of -3.1% when comparing July 2019 and 2023.Overall, the industry RPK indicators have shown 5-8% growth for the whole domestic aviation industry.

Domestic RPK growth by market, YoY%change vs. 2019 ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics
Domestic RPK growth by market, YoY% change vs. 2019. ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics

The growth of international RPK indicators has followed a distinct pattern. According to IATA’s Air Passenger Market Analysis, there is a chart depicting RPK growth categorized by the region of airline registration. The majority of airlines experienced a sharp decline in RPK growth rates, except for those registered in Northern America. In this region, the RPK growth rate ranged between 1-2.5% each month. In contrast, all other regions saw a significant decrease in RPK growth, with the Asia Pacific region facing the most severe conditions — experiencing a decline of more than 25% each month. In total, the industry suffered an approximately 11% reduction in RPK growth compared to the pre-pandemic situation.

International RPK growth by airline region ofregistration, YoY% change versus 2019 ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics
International RPK growth by airline region of registration, YoY% change versus 2019. ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics

Change of RPK In Top 10 Route Areas

The passenger volume on the top 10 major airline routes continued to grow, though not all of them have reached pre-pandemic demand levels. All routes connecting Asia with the rest of the world are still below 2019 levels, except for the Middle East to Asia route. This route peaked at the beginning of 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic passenger loads. The demand for all other routes, except those connecting with Asia, is behind 2019 levels of RPK by less than 20%. Notably, the Europe to Middle East and Europe to North America routes were the only other two that reached and exceeded 2019 demand levels.

International RPKs, YoY% change vs. 2019– Top 10 route areas in 2019 ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics
International RPKs, YoY% change vs. 2019 – Top 10 route areas in 2019. ⓒ IATA Sustainability & Economics

The Statement of IATA’s Director General

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General, Willie Walsh, commented on the recent situation in the air transportation market.

“Planes were full during July as people continue to travel in ever greater numbers. Importantly, forward ticket sales indicate that traveler confidence remains high. And there is every reason to be optimistic about the continuing recovery.”

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA ⓒ IATA
Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA. ⓒ IATA

“The Northern Hemisphere summer is living up to expectations for very strong traffic demand. While the industry was largely prepared to accommodate a return to pre-pandemic levels of operations, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our infrastructure providers. Performance of some of the key air navigation services providers, for example, has been deeply disappointing for many reasons from insufficient staffing to the failure fiasco of NATS in the UK. These must be promptly corrected. Even more worrying, however, are political decisions by some governments—among them Mexico and the Netherlands—to impose capacity cuts at their major hubs that will most certainly destroy jobs and damage local and national economies. The numbers continue to tell us that people want and need air connectivity. That’s why governments should be working with us so that people can travel safely, sustainably, and efficiently.”

Overall, the recovery of the air industry is still in progress, but by the summer of 2023, the demand and revenue figures show the condition close to pre-pandemic levels if the trend continues to be as positive as it is, the post-pandemic market have a chance to be even more competitive than it was before.

What do you think of these recovery statistics? Do you want to read more about the statistics of the airline industry? Let us know in the comments below!

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