The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a moderate rebound in air travel in September compared with August’s performance. This was driven by recovery in domestic markets, in particular China, where some travel curbs were lifted following COVID-19 outbreaks in August. International demand, meanwhile, slipped slightly compared with the previous month. Specific results against 2019 included:

  • Total demand for air travel in September 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) was down 53.4% compared with September 2019. This marked an uptick from August, when demand was 56% below August 2019 levels.
  • Domestic markets were down 24.3% compared with September 2019, a significant improvement from August 2021, when traffic was down 32.6% versus two years ago.
  • International passenger demand in September was 69.2% below September 2019, fractionally worse than the 68.7% decline recorded in August.
Willie Walsh, director general, said September’s performance is “a positive development,” but recovery in international traffic remains stalled amid continuing border closures and quarantine mandates. The recent US policy change to reopen travel from 33 markets for fully vaccinated foreigners beginning Nov. 8 is a welcome, if long overdue, development, he said. Along with recent reopenings in other key markets like Australia, Argentina, Thailand and Singapore, said Walsh, this should give a boost to the large-scale restoration of the freedom to travel.

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