IATA Sees ‘Green Shoots’ of Recovery

 - June 3, 2020, 12:04 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Wednesday issued an upbeat assessment of statistics that show an increase of flight totals of 30 percent from a low point on April 21 to May 27. The uptick followed a 94-percent plunge in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) during April compared with the same month a year earlier, as Covid-19-related travel restrictions virtually shut down domestic and international air travel. The figures mark a rate of decline never seen in the history of IATA’s traffic analyses, which dates back to 1990.

The encouraging figures from May involve primarily domestic operations and represent a hike from a low base (5.7 percent of 2019 demand). While IATA called the increase not significant in relation to the global dimension of the air transport industry, it does suggest that the industry has seen the bottom of the crisis, provided a spike in Covid-19 cases do not reoccur.  

“April was a disaster for aviation as air travel almost entirely stopped,” said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac. “But April may also represent the nadir of the crisis. Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions. And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets such as China, Germany, and the U.S. These are positive signs as we start to rebuild the industry from a standstill. The initial green shoots will take time—possibly years—to mature.”

IATA calculated that by the first week of April, governments in 75 percent of the markets tracked completely banned entry, while another 19 percent limited travel restrictions or imposed compulsory quarantine requirements for international arrivals. Data from late May show that flight levels in South Korea, China, and Vietnam have risen to a point now that equates to just a 22 to 28 percent decline from a year earlier. Searches for air travel on Google increased 25 percent by the end of May compared with the April low, added IATA, although the figure reflects a 60 percent drop from the number of searches at the start of the year.