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IATA: Domestic air travel demand sees upsurge in March but international travel still down

IATA: Domestic air travel demand sees upsurge in March but international travel still down
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General
Written by Harry Johnson

Total demand for air travel in March 2021 was down 67.2%

  • International passenger demand in March was 87.8% below March 2019
  • International traffic remained largely restricted
  • Total domestic demand was down 32.3% versus pre-crisis levels

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger traffic fell in March 2021 compared to pre-COVID levels (March 2019) but rose compared to the immediate month prior (February 2021). 

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to March 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in March 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 67.2% compared to March 2019. That was an improvement over the 74.9% decline recorded in February 2021 versus February 2019. The better performance was driven by gains in domestic markets, particularly China. International traffic remained largely restricted.
  • International passenger demand in March was 87.8% below March 2019, a very small improvement from the 89.0% decline recorded in February 2021 versus two years ago. 
  • Total domestic demand was down 32.3% versus pre-crisis levels (March 2019), greatly improved over February 2021, when domestic traffic was down 51.2% versus the 2019 period. All markets except Brazil and India showed improvement compared to February 2021, with China being the key contributor, as already noted. 

“The positive momentum we saw in some key domestic markets in March is an indication of the strong recovery we are anticipating in international markets as travel restrictions are lifted. People want and need to fly. And we can be optimistic that they will do so when restrictions are removed,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.