“We have hit a wall”: IATA’s September numbers are in

GENEVA — Passenger demand in September remained highly depressed, says IATA, with international demand plunging 88.8% compared to the same month in 2019.

Total demand was 72.8% below September 2019 levels, representing a slight improvement over the 75.2% year-to-year decline recorded in August. Capacity was down 63% compared to a year ago while load factor fell 21.8 percentage points to 60.1%.

Domestic demand saw a slight improvement in September; demand was down 43.3% compared to the previous year, an improvement from the 50.% decline in August. Compared to 2019, capacity fell 33.3% and the load factor dropped 12.4 percentage points to 69.9%.

“We have hit a wall in the industry’s recovery,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “A resurgence in COVID-19 outbreaks – particularly in Europe and the U.S. – combined with governments’ reliance on the blunt instrument of quarantine in the absence of globally aligned testing regimes, has halted momentum toward reopening borders to travel.

“Although domestic markets are doing better, this is primarily owing to improvements in China and Russia. And domestic traffic represents just a bit more than a third of total traffic so it is not enough to sustain a general recovery.”

North American carriers saw a 91.3% traffic decline in September, a slight improvement from a 92.0% decline in August. Capacity toppled 78.3%, and load factor dropped 49.8 percentage points to 33.4%.

“Last week we provided analysis showing that the airline industry cannot slash costs fast enough to compensate for the collapse in passenger demand brought about by COVID-19 and government border closures and quarantines,” added de Juniac. “Some 4.8 million aviation-sector jobs are imperiled, as are a total of 46 million people in the broader economy whose jobs are supported by aviation. To avoid this economic catastrophe, governments need to align on testing as a way to open borders and enable travel without quarantine, and provide further relief measures to sustain the industry through the dark winter ahead.”

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