IATA: Air travel recovers fully, to surpass 2019 pre-Covid figure


  • Historic 4.7 billion people expected to travel in 2024


As predicted, international and domestic air travel have rebounded to pre-2019 COVID as air travel is closer to surpassing the 2019 figure according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The implication is that air travel has fully recovered with more people expected to take to air travel this year than ever for.

IATA, in a data released for November 2023 air travel performance indicated that air travel demand topped 99% of 2019 levels.

Even for domestic travel in Nigeria, there are indications that the country’s passenger traffic may surpass 20 million recorded by the time the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria (NCAA) and the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) make public traffic figures for the last year this month.

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 Some 4.7 billion people are expected to travel in 2024, a historic high that exceeds the pre-pandemic level of 4.5 billion recorded in 2019. Cargo volumes are expected to be 58 and 61 million tonnes in 2023 and 2024, respectively according to the clearing house for over 300 global airlines

On the other hand, airline industry operating profits are expected to reach $49.3 billion in 2024 from $40.7 billion in 2023, while total revenues in 2024 are expected to grow 7.6% year over year to a record $964 billion.

The Director-General of IATA, Willie Walsh in a statement made available to Aviation Metric on Wednesday said, “We are moving ever closer to surpassing the 2019 peak year for air travel. Economic headwinds are not deterring people from taking to the skies.

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“International travel remains 5.5% below pre-pandemic levels but that gap is rapidly closing. And domestic markets have been above their pre-pandemic levels continuously since April. Globally, traffic is now at 99.1% of November 2019 levels.”

Total traffic in November 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 29.7% compared to November 2022.

According to IATA, International traffic rose 26.4% versus November 2022. The Asia-Pacific region continued to report the strongest year-over-year results (+63.8%) with all regions showing improvement compared to the prior year. November 2023 international RPKs reached 94.5% of November 2019 levels.

Domestic traffic for November 2023 was up 34.8% compared to November 2022. Total November 2023 domestic traffic was 6.7% above the November 2019 level.]

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Growth was particularly strong in China (+272%) as it recovered from the COVID-19 travel restrictions that were still in place a year ago. US domestic travel, benefitting from strong Thanksgiving holiday demand, reached a new high, expanding +9.1% over November 2019.

African airlines had a 22.1% rise in November RPKs versus a year ago. November 2023 capacity was up 29.6% and load factor fell 4.3 percentage points to 69.7%, the lowest among regions.


Wole Shadare