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IATA chief blames government overreaction for latest travel slump

IATA chief blames government overreaction for latest travel slump

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that the recovery in air travel continued in November, prior to the emergence of Omicron.

International demand sustained its steady upward trend as more markets reopened.

Domestic traffic, however, weakened, largely owing to strengthened travel restrictions in China.

Total demand for air travel in November 2021 (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres or RPKs) was down 47 per cent compared to November 2019.

This marked an uptick compared to the 49 per cent contraction seen in October last year when compared to 2019.

Domestic air travel deteriorated slightly in November after two consecutive monthly improvements.


Domestic RPKs fell by 25 per cent versus 2019 compared with a 21 decline in October.

Primarily this was driven by China, where traffic fell 51 per cent compared to 2019, after several cities introduced stricter travel restrictions to contain (pre-Omicron) Covid-19 outbreaks.

International passenger demand in November was 61 per cent below November 2019, bettering the 65 per cent decline recorded in October.

“The recovery in air traffic continued in November.

“Unfortunately, governments over-reacted to the emergence of the Omicron variant at the close of the month and resorted to the tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travellers and quarantine to slow the spread.

“Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected.

“If the experience of the last 22 months has shown anything, it is that there is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders.

“And these measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

“If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year, ” said Willie Walsh, IATA director general.