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Air travel demand takes a step back as COVID restrictions tighten

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Air travel demand suffered another decline in February as travel restrictions tightened in response to new coronavirus variants.
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Dubai: Air travel demand suffered another decline in February as travel restrictions tightened in response to new coronavirus variants.

Passenger traffic – measured in revenue passenger kilometers – was down 74.7 per cent, compared to February 2019. That was worse than the 72.2 per cent decline recorded in January, 2021, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

International passenger demand in February was 88.7 per cent below February 2019, a further drop from the 85.7 per cent year-to-year decline recorded in January.

Performance in all regions worsened compared to January 2021, said IATA.

“February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel – in fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Australia does well

Domestic markets witnessed a further fall in traffic in February, with the sole bright spot being Australia.

“An important exception was the Australian domestic market – a relaxation of restrictions on domestic flying resulted in significantly more travel,” said Walsh.

Cargo returns to growth

Meanwhile, the air cargo business has begun to experience significant growth for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers, was up 9 per cent compared to February, 2019 and 1.5 per cent compared to January, 2021.

“Air cargo demand is not just recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, it is growing – one of the main challenges for air cargo is finding sufficient capacity,” said Walsh.

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