IATA: September passenger demand stays strong; but air cargo demand softens

All markets reported strong growth, led by Asia-Pacific

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https://www.cfmaeroengines.com/engines/leap/The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced passenger data for September 2022 showing that the recovery in air travel continues to be strong. Total traffic in September 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) rose 57 percent compared to September 2021.

Download the IATA passenger market analysis here.

Globally, traffic is now at 73.8 percent of September 2019 levels. Domestic traffic for September 2022 was up 6.9 percent compared to the year-ago period. Total September 2022 domestic traffic was at 81 percent of the September 2019 level. International traffic climbed 122.2 percent versus September 2021. September 2022 international RPKs reached 69.9 percent of September 2019 levels. All markets reported strong growth, led by Asia-Pacific.

IATA Director General Willie Walsh at the 2021 annual general meeting in Boston. (PHOTO: IATA)

“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 percent 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 percent increase for international traffic compared to the year-ago period,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

International Passenger Markets

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 464.8 percent rise in September traffic compared to September 2021, the strongest year-over-year rate among the regions. Capacity rose 165.3 percent and the load factor was up 41.5 percentage points to 78.3 percent.
  • European carriers’ September traffic climbed 78.3 percent versus September 2021. Capacity increased 43.8 percent, and load factor moved up 16.3 percentage points to 84.1 percent, second highest among the regions.
  • Middle Eastern airlines posted a 149.7 percent traffic rise in September compared to September 2021. September capacity increased 63.5 percent versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 27.6 percentage points to 80.0 percent.
  • North American carriers had a 128.9 percent traffic rise in September versus the 2021 period. Capacity increased 63.0 percent, and load factor climbed 24.6 percentage points to 85.4 percent, which was the highest among the regions for a fourth consecutive month.
  • Latin American airlines’ September traffic rose 99.4 percent compared to the same month in 2021. September capacity climbed 73.7 percent and load factor increased 10.8 percentage points to 83.5 percent.
  • African airlines saw a 90.5 percent rise in September RPKs versus a year ago. September 2022 capacity was up 47.2 percent and load factor climbed 16.7 percentage points to 73.6 percent, the lowest among regions.

Domestic Passenger Markets

  • Japan’s domestic RPKs rose 127.9 percent in September and are now at nearly 75.6 percent of 2019 levels.
  • US domestic traffic climbed 16.8 percent in September compared to September 2021, pushing it to 0.4 percent above the September 2019 level. The 85.4 percent load factor was the highest among the domestic markets.

“Strong demand is helping the industry cope with sky-high fuel prices. To support that demand in the long-term, we need to pay attention to what travellers are telling us. After nearly three years of pandemic travel complexity, IATA’s 2022 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) shows that travellers want simplification and convenience,” Walsh added. “That’s an important message for airlines but also for airports and governments. They own many of the facilitation processes that let passengers down at some key airports over this year’s northern summer travel season. According to the GPS, a majority of passengers want to use biometric data rather than passports for border processes. And 93 percent of passengers are interested in trusted traveller programs to expedite security screening. Modernising the facilitation experience will not only help alleviate the choke points, it will create a better experience for all.

Air cargo demand softens in September

IATA also said data for September 2022 global air cargo markets showed that air cargo demand softened. Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), fell 10.6 percent compared to September 2021 (-10.6 percent also for international operations), but continued to track at near pre-pandemic levels (-3.6 percent). Capacity was 2.4 percent above September 2021 (+5.0 percent for international operations) but still 7.4 percent below September 2019 levels (-8.1 percent for international operations).

Download the IATA cargo market analysis here.

Several factors in the operating environment should be noted:

  • Following contractions across major economies, the global Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for new export orders also contracted (for a third month in a row) to its lowest level in two years.
  • Latest global goods trade figures showed a 5.2 percent expansion in August, a positive sign for the global economy. This is expected to primarily benefit maritime cargo, with a slight boost to air cargo as well.
  • Oil prices remained stable in September and the jet fuel crack spread fell from a peak in June.
  • The Consumer Price Index stabilised in G7 countries in September, but at a decades high level of 7.7 percent. Inflation in producer (input) prices slowed to 13.7 percent in August.
(PHOTO: Singapore Airlines)

“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. 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 percent in August to 2.4 percent in September demonstrates the flexibility the industry has in adjusting to economic developments,” said IATA’s Walsh.

September Regional Performance

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw their air cargo volumes decrease by 10.7 percent in September 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. This was a decline in performance compared to August (-8.3 percent). Airlines in the region continue to be impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, labour shortages, and lower levels of trade and manufacturing activity due to Omicron-related restrictions in China. Available capacity in the region increased by 2.8 percent compared to 2021.
  • North American carriers posted a 6.0 percent decrease in cargo volumes in September 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. This was a decline in performance compared to August (3.4 percent).  Capacity was up 4.6 percent compared to September 2021.
  • European carriers saw a 15.6 percent decrease in cargo volumes in September 2022 compared to the same month in 2021. This was on a par with August’s performance (-15.1 percent). This is attributable to the war in Ukraine. Labour shortages and high inflation levels, most notably in Turkey, also affected volumes. Capacity increased 0.2 percent in September 2022 compared to September 2021.
  • Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 15.8 percent year-on-year decrease in cargo volumes in September 2022. This was the worst performance of all regions and a significant decline compared to the previous month (-11.3 percent). Stagnant cargo volumes to/from Europe impacted the region’s performance. Capacity was down 2.8 percent compared to September 2021.
  • Latin American carriers reported an increase of 10.8 percent in cargo volumes in September 2022 compared to September 2021. This was the strongest performance of all regions. Airlines in this region have shown optimism by introducing new services and capacity, and in some cases investing in additional aircraft for air cargo in the coming months. Capacity in September was up 18.4 percent compared to the same month in 2021.
  • African airlines saw cargo volumes increase by 0.1 percent in September 2022 compared to September 2021. This was a slight decrease in the growth recorded the previous month (1.0 percent). Capacity was 4.1 percent below September 2021 levels.


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