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IATA: Recovery in the Aviation Industry is On Track

IATA reports the global airline industry posted traffic numbers approaching 2019 levels

by Dan Booth

February 14, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of by Paul Berry / Unsplash

Despite persistent headwinds posed by sagging economies and rising fuel prices worldwide, recovery in the aviation industry is on track, according to full-year data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Globally, the industry in 2022 recovered over two-thirds (68.5 percent) of its pre-pandemic passenger traffic.

The momentum has steadily built throughout 2022, with December posting a rise in total traffic—as measured in revenue passenger kilometers—of 39.7 percent over the same period in 2021, reaching 76.9 percent of the December 2019 level.

Photo: Courtesy of Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa / Unsplash

“Airlines have continued to demonstrate resilience and adaptability in this challenging post-pandemic environment,” IATA said in a tweet outlining the industry’s performance last year compared to 2019.

“Consumers demonstrated a strong willingness to travel wherever travel restrictions were taken down, propelling a strong rebound in international traffic,” the association tweeted.

Worldwide Traffic Climb

International traffic, which had mainly been moribund in the early days of the pandemic, jumped 152.7 percent over last year’s numbers, reaching 62.2 percent of 2019 levels. Worldwide, December international passenger numbers climbed 80.2 percent over the same period the year prior, reaching 75.1 percent of the level in December 2019.

IATA reports that every region saw recovery for the full year ending December 31, led by Asia-Pacific airlines which posted a 363.3 percent rise in international traffic compared to 2021. Middle Eastern carriers rose 157.4 percent yearly, while Europe and North America traffic gained more than 130 percent.

Source: IATA

Meanwhile, domestic traffic globally climbed 10.9 percent in 2022 compared to the prior year, rising to 79.6 percent of the full-year 2019 level. Japan’s domestic traffic grew to 74.1 percent of the 2019 level, while India’s 2022 domestic traffic reached 85.7 percent of its pre-pandemic levels.

Despite the positive signs, IATA cautions that the aviation industry globally is expected to face headwinds in the coming year, including the prolonged war in Ukraine, rising jet fuel prices, and slowing economic growth coupled with high inflation.

Nevertheless, industry leaders remain confident that aviation’s upward trajectory will continue into 2023 as airlines rebuild capacity and consumer demand remains robust.

“The industry left 2022 in far stronger shape than it entered, as most governments lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions during the year, and people took advantage of the restoration of their freedom to travel,” commented Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. “This momentum is expected to continue in the New Year.”