Air Traffic Recovery Reaches Full Stop in November

 - January 7, 2021, 11:03 AM

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

A slowing recovery of passenger demand resulting from surging Covid cases and related travel restrictions since the Northern Hemisphere’s summer travel season reached a full stop in November as airlines saw almost identical revenue passenger kilometer declines from a month earlier, reported the International Air Transport Association Thursday. Falling 70.3 percent from the same month a year earlier, November 2020 RPKs went virtually unchanged from the 70.6 percent year-over-year decline recorded in October. November capacity fell 58.6 percent below the previous year’s levels and load factor fell 23 points to 58 percent—a record low for the month.

International passenger demand in November finished 88.3 percent below November 2019 levels, slightly worse than the 87.6 percent year-over-year decline recorded in October. Capacity fell 77.4 percent below the previous year’s levels and load factor dropped 38.7 points, to 41.5 percent. IATA identified Europe as the main driver of the weakness due largely to new Covid lockdowns. 

Recovery in domestic demand, which had until last month stood as a relative bright spot, also stalled, as November domestic traffic fell 41 percent from the prior year’s level, compared with a 41.1 percent decline the previous year’s level in October. Capacity fell 27.1 percent from 2019 levels and the load factor dropped 15.7 points, to 66.6 percent.

“The already tepid recovery in air travel demand came to a full stop in November,” said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac. “That’s because governments responded to new outbreaks with even more severe travel restrictions and quarantine measures. This is clearly inefficient. Such measures increase hardship for millions. Vaccines offer the long-term solution. In the meantime, testing is the best way that we see to stop the spread of the virus and start the economic recovery. How much more anguish do people need to go through—job losses, mental stress—before governments will understand that?”