The recovery in global air passenger traffic was slower than expected as international travel remains limited, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

The return of global passenger traffic (revenue passenger kilometers – RPKs) to pre-COVID-19 levels will delay by a year from previous projection to 2024, Geneva-based IATA said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The traffic — measured in RPK — dropped 86.5% in June compared to same month last year, showing a slight improvement from a 91.0% contraction in May as demand rose in domestic markets, particularly China. 

The aviation body expected global passenger numbers to revive in 2023, also a year later than previous forecast.

Blaming slow virus containment in the US and developing economies which resulted in continued international travel suspensions, the IATA said the number of global passengers will decline by 55% year-on-year in 2020. 

It noted that constrained corporate travel budgets and weak consumer confidence are also a drag on the recovery.

Passenger numbers are expected to rise 62% in 2021 off the depressed 2020 base, but still will be down almost 30% compared to 2019, the statement read. 

June figures

International traffic shrank by 96.8% this June compared to June 2019, only slightly improved over a 98.3% decline in May, year-on-year.

Capacity fell 93.2% and load factor contracted 44.7 percentage points to 38.9%.

Domestic traffic demand fell 67.6% in June, improved from a 78.4% decline in May. 

Alexandre de Juniac, the CEO of IATA, stressed that while domestic traffic improves, international traffic, which in normal times accounts for close to two-thirds of global air travel, remained virtually non-existent.

“Summer –the busiest season– is passing by rapidly with little chance for an upswing in international air travel unless governments move quickly and decisively to find alternatives to border closures, confidence-destroying stop-start re-openings and demand-killing quarantine,” de Juniac said.

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