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IATA: August 2023 Marks Significant Leap in Air Travel Recovery

IATA Reports Skyrocketing Passenger Demand as Airlines Near Pre-Pandemic Levels

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) unveiled uplifting news: the robust recovery of passenger demand is not just continuing but accelerating. Airlines and travelers welcomed August’s significant upswing, painting an optimistic picture of the aviation industry’s trajectory.

IATA Reports Skyrocketing Passenger Demand as Airlines Near Pre-Pandemic Levels

“Demand for air travel performed well in August. For the year to date, international traffic has increased by 50% versus last year, and ticket sales data show international bookings strengthening for travel in the last part of the year,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

A Closer Look at the Numbers

In August 2023, Total Traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs), rose 28.4% compared to the same period in the previous year. In a remarkable return to form, global traffic touched 95.7% of pre-COVID levels.

International Passenger Traffic

International traffic registered a 30.4% rise against last year’s numbers. IATA’s data shows that every market reported double-digit year-on-year percentage gains.

August 2023 (% ch year-on-year)World share[1]RPKASKPLF (%-pt)[2]PLF (level)[3]
Total Market 100.0%28.4%24.9%2.3%84.6%
Asia Pacific22.1%73.4%57.7%7.4%82.2%
Latin America6.4%17.6%14.5%2.2%85.1%
Middle East9.8%26.4%21.6%3.2%83.0%
North America28.8%12.6%13.0%-0.3%85.8%
[1]% of industry RPKs in 2022   [2]year-on-year change in load factor   [3]Load Factor Level
International Passenger Markets

Domestic Passenger Traffic

Domestic travel is thriving. August’s domestic traffic swelled 25.4% against August 2022 figures, fueled predominantly by a surge in Chinese domestic demand. Domestic RPKs surpassed pre-pandemic August 2019 figures by 9.2%.

August 2023 (% ch year-on-year)World share[1]RPKASKPLF (%-pt)[2]PLF (level)[3]
China P.R.6.4%93.6%66.2%11.2%79.1%
[1]% of industry RPKs in 2022   [2]year-on-year change in load factor   [3]Load Factor Level
Domestic Passenger Markets

Indian domestic RPKs rose 23.2% compared to a year ago and have now exceeded pre-pandemic levels for seven consecutive months.

Japan’s domestic market was impacted by Typhoon Khanun, which caused major air traffic disruptions in southern Japan. Domestic RPKs grew 8.7% year over year, down on the 13.4% growth recorded in the previous month. 

August 2023 Global Passenger Traffic by Market

August 2023 (% ch year-on-year)World share[1]RPKASKPLF (%-pt)[2]PLF (level)[3]
Total Market100%-4.3%-3.1%-1.1%84.6%
[1]% of industry RPKs in 2022   [2]year-on-year change in load factor   [3]Load Factor Level
Global Passenger Traffic by Market

IATA Region-Specific Insights

Asian-Pacific airlines are at the forefront of the recovery narrative. Airlines recorded a 98.5% increase in traffic in August 2023 compared to the August 2022 figures, underscoring the region’s pivotal role in the global aviation landscape.

European and North American carriers, though with a comparatively modest increase, added to the upbeat sentiment. European traffic rose 13.6%, while North American counterparts noted an 18.6% uplift. The latter also boasted the highest load factor for three consecutive months, highlighting enhanced operational efficiency.

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 98.5% increase in August 2023 traffic compared to August 2022, continuing to lead the regions. Capacity climbed 85.5%, and the load factor increased by 5.5 percentage points to 84.2%. 
  • European carriers’ August traffic rose 13.6% versus August 2022. Capacity increased by 12.3%, and load factor increased by 1.1 percentage points to 86.8%.
  • Middle Eastern airlines posted a 27.3% increase in August traffic compared to a year ago. Capacity rose 22.7%, and load factor climbed 3.0 percentage points to 83.1%. 
  • North American carriers had an 18.6% traffic rise in August 2023 versus 2022. Capacity increased by 17.5%, and load factor improved by 0.8 percentage points to 87.7%, the highest among the regions for a third consecutive month.
  • Latin American airlines’ traffic rose 26.4% compared to the same month 2022. August capacity climbed 23.8%, and load factor rose 1.7 percentage points to 86.1%. 
  • African airlines saw a 26.1% traffic increase in August 2023 versus a year ago. August capacity was up 25.5%, and load factor rose 0.4 percentage points to 76.2%.

Sustainability at the Forefront

As airlines globally inch closer to pre-pandemic levels of operation, the focus is steadily shifting towards sustainability. The COVID-19 hiatus offered an unexpected pause, allowing the aviation industry to recalibrate its goals and strategies.

IATA’s first World Sustainability Symposium became the melting pot of ideas, aspirations, and concrete steps toward a sustainable aviation future. The consensus was unanimous: achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 isn’t just a target; it’s an imperative.

The Path Ahead

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, encapsulated the prevailing sentiment.

“Heading into the last quarter of the year, the airline industry is nearly fully recovered to 2019 levels of demand. The focus, however, has not been on getting back to a specific number of passengers or flights but rather on meeting the demand by businesses and individuals for connectivity that was artificially suppressed for more than two years. Having seen the economic, social, and personal losses when airlines could not fly during the COVID-19 crisis, this industry is determined to secure a sustainable long-term future by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That was clearly evident at the first IATA World Sustainability Symposium, where discussions focused on how to decarbonize. We know that our customers want a world in which they can enjoy the freedom to travel sustainably. This inaugural World Sustainability Symposium was a critical step in aligning policymakers, the aviation value chain, and airlines with the concrete steps needed to deliver. And we will measure progress when we meet again in a year’s time,” said Walsh.

August Air Passenger Market Analysis

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