Top News Air traffic activity for 2021 gets off to sluggish start: IATA By TTG Asia / Posted on 5 March, 2021 13:46 Demand for air travel has continued to fall, due to increased travel restrictions by governments to combat new Covid variants. According to the IATA, passenger traffic fell in January 2021, both in comparison to pre-Covid levels (January 2019) and the immediate month prior (December 2020). The aviation industry is expected to burn through US$75-$95 billion in cash this year, according to IATA Total demand in January 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 72% compared to January 2019 (2020 statistics are distorted due to the impact of Covid-19). That was worse than the 69.7% year-over-year decline recorded in December 2020. Total domestic demand was down 47.4% versus pre-crisis (January 2019) levels. In December, it was down 42.9% on the previous year. This weakening is largely driven by stricter domestic travel controls in China over the Lunar New Year holiday period. International passenger demand in January was 85.6% below January 2019, a further drop compared to the 85.3% year-to-year decline recorded in December. “2021 is starting off worse than 2020 ended and that is saying a lot. Even as vaccination programmes gather pace, new Covid variants are leading governments to increase travel restrictions,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. “The uncertainty around how long these restrictions will last also has an impact on future travel. Forward bookings in February this year for the Northern Hemisphere summer travel season were 78% below levels in February 2019.” Asia-Pacific airlines’ January traffic plummeted 94.6% compared to the 2019 period, virtually unchanged from the 94.4% decline registered for December 2020 compared to a year ago. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for a seventh consecutive month. Capacity dropped 86.5%, by far the lowest among regions. Middle Eastern airlines saw demand plunge 82.3% in January compared to January 2019, which was broadly unchanged from an 82.6% demand drop in December versus a year ago. Capacity fell 67.6%. China’s domestic traffic was down 33.9% in January compared to January 2019, dramatically worsened compared to the 8.5% year-over-year decline in December. The fall was owing to stricter traffic controls ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday period amid several localised Covid-19 outbreaks.