Global capacity also increased by 41.2% compared to March last year and nearly reached pre-pandemic levels at almost 90%, while load factor went up by 5.9 percentage points YoY to reach an average of 80.7%. However, this was still down by 1.4 percentage points from pre-Covid-19 times.
The Asia-Pacific region showed the most substantial growth in both demand and capacity with gains of 158.9% and 109%, respectively; North America had a rise in demand (+16.9%) along with its capacity (+15.9%), whereas Europe saw increases of +37% for demand and +25.% for capacity.
“The calendar year first quarter ended on a strong note for air travel demand,” said Willie Walsh, Director General at IATA.” Domestic markets have been near their pre-pandemic levels for months now.”
He added: “For international travel, two key waypoints were topped.Firstly,demand increased by three-and-a-half-percentage-points compared to the previous month’s growth rate reaching eighty-one percent of pre-Covid levels. This was led by a near tripling of demand for Asia-Pacific carriers as China’s re-opening took hold. Secondly, efficiency is improving as international load factors reached 81.3%. Even more importantly, ticket sales for both domestic and international travel give every indication that strong growth will continue into the peak northern hemisphere summer travel season.”
March saw an increase in international demand (+68.9%) YoY with capacity up by 48%, while load factor increased to 81.3% (up from last year’s figure by10.1 percentage points). The Asia-Pacific region experienced a surge in its international traffic at +283.% YoY since lifting restrictions on travel; North America also had positive figures with increases of +51.6% and +34% respectively for demand and capacity.
European airlines posted a rise in their international traffic too, which went up by 38.5%, along with their capacity increasing to+27%; however, they still have the second-lowest regional average load factor at79 .4%.
In terms of domestic air travel, March witnessed an increase in demand (+34.l%), but it remained slightly below pre-pandemic levels (-20%). China showed significant growth rates concerning both its demands (1952%) and capacities(153%), followed closely behind Brazil whose recovery rate stood at99 .8 %for demands.
The United States’ recovery rate was almost complete at98 .9 %. India recorded the highest gain among all countries surveyed regarding passenger numbers above those seen back in March2019witha10%increaseinitsdemandfigures.
“As traveler expectations build towards the peak northern hemisphere summer travel season,” Walsh said: “airlines are doing their best to meet the desire and need to fly.” However, he added that there could be some disappointment due to insufficient flight availability resulting from labor shortages across various aviation sectors and supply-chain issues affecting aircraft manufacturing, leading to delivery delays.
Walsh also criticized the recent job actions by air traffic controllers and others that resulted in thousands of unnecessary flight cancellations across Europe during March, calling it “unacceptable” and urging authorities not to tolerate such behavior.