Complex Made Simple

June air travel showing signs of improvement, air cargo peaking

June witnessed an improvement in comparison with May when it came to air travel recovery but was still way below the industry's performance in 2019 before the COVID-19-hit 2020. Cargo, on the other hand, is doing great

International passenger demand in June was 80.9% below June 2019 First half-year air cargo growth to 8% was its strongest first-half performance since 2017 8 billion passengers flew in 2020, a decrease of 60.2% compared to the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019

June witnessed an improvement in comparison with May when it came to air travel recovery but was still way below the industry’s performance in 2019 before the COVID-19-hit 2020. Cargo, on the other hand, is doing great. 

June air travel

June demand remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels showing a very slight improvement in both international and domestic air travel markets, owing to travel restrictions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Total demand for air travel in June 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 60.1% compared to June 2019. That was a small improvement over the 62.9% decline recorded in May 2021 versus May 2019.

  • International passenger demand in June was 80.9% below June 2019, an improvement from the 85.4% decline recorded in May 2021 versus two years ago.
  • Total domestic demand was down 22.4% versus pre-crisis levels (June 2019), a slight gain over the 23.7% decline recorded in May 2021 versus the 2019 period.

“The situation for international travel is nowhere near where we need to be. June should be the start of peak season, but airlines were carrying just 20% of 2019 levels. That’s not a recovery, it’s a continuing crisis caused by government inaction,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 79.4% demand drop in June compared to June 2019, improving from the 81.3% decrease in May, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 65.3% and load factor deteriorated 31 percentage points to 45.3%.

“A risk-managed re-connecting of the world is what we need. Vaccinated travelers should have their freedom of movement returned. An efficient testing regime can sufficiently manage risks for those unable to be vaccinated. This is the underlying message in the latest WHO travel guidance,” said Walsh.

View the COVID-19 One Ocean, Two Shores: Time to Reconnect presentation (pdf)
View the full June Air Passenger Market Analysis, (including 2021 vs. 2020 comparisons)

June air cargo

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air cargo markets for June showing a 9.9% improvement on pre-COVID-19 performance (June 2019), measured in cargo ton-kilometers (CTKs).

This pushed first half-year air cargo growth to 8%, its strongest first-half performance since 2017 when the industry posted 10.2% year-on-year growth.

  • Middle East carriers contributed 2.1 percentage points off the total. They posted a 17.1% rise in international cargo volumes in June 2021 versus June 2019, boosted by strong performances on the Middle East to Asia and the Middle East to North America trade routes.
  • Overall capacity, measured in available cargo ton-kilometers (ACTKs), remained constrained at 10.8% below pre-COVID-19 levels (June 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft. Belly capacity was down 38.9% on June 2019 levels, partially offset by a 29.7% increase in dedicated freighter capacity.

“Air cargo is doing brisk business as the global economy continues its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Air cargo is a revenue lifeline for many airlines as they struggle with border closures that continue to devastate the international passenger business. Importantly, the strong first-half performance looks set to continue,” said Walsh.  

View the Air Cargo Market Analysis for June 2021 (pdf)

Latest industry stats show the worst year on record

IATA released the IATA World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) publication with performance figures for 2020 demonstrating the devastating effects on global air transport during that year of the COVID-19 crisis:

  • 8 billion passengers flew in 2020, a decrease of 60.2% compared to the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019
  • Industry-wide air travel demand dropped by 65.9% year-on-year
  • International passenger demand decreased by 75.6% compared to the year prior
  • Domestic air passenger demand dropped by 48.8% compared to 2019
  • Air connectivity declined by more than half in 2020 with the number of routes connecting airports falling dramatically at the outset of the crisis and was down more than 60% year-on-year in April 2020
  • Total industry passenger revenues fell by 69% to $189 billion in 2020, and net losses were $126.4 billion in total
  • The decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950

Key 2020 airline performance figures from WATS:

Systemwide, airlines carried 1.8 billion passengers on scheduled services, a decrease of 60.2% over 2019

On average, there was a $71.7 loss incurred per passenger in 2020, corresponding to net losses of $126.4 billion in total

Measured in ASKs (available seat kilometers), global airline capacity plummeted by 56.7%, with international capacity being hit the hardest with a reduction of 68.3%

Systemwide passenger load factor dropped to 65.1% in 2020, compared to 82.5% the year prior

The Middle East region suffered the largest proportion of loss for passenger traffic with a drop of 71.5% in RPKs versus 2019, followed by Europe (-69.7%) and the Africa region (-68.5%)

The Middle East, with 76.8 million passengers, suffered a decrease of 67.6% over 2019

The top five airlines ranked by scheduled CTKs flown were:

  • Federal Express (19.7 billion)
  • United Parcel Service (14.4 billion)
  • Qatar Airways (13.7 billion)
  • Emirates (9.6 billion)
  • Cathay Pacific Airways (8.1 billion)