The recovery in air travel decelerated in August compared with July, as government actions in response to concerns over the Covid-19 Delta variant cut deeply into domestic travel demand, according to statistics released Thursday by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Total demand for air travel in August 2021 measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) fell 56.0 percent compared with August 2019. The performance marked a slowdown from July, when demand had fallen 53.0 percent below July 2019 levels.
Domestic markets, whose RPKs fell 32.2 percent compared with August 2019, accounted for a major deterioration from July 2021, when traffic had fallen by just 16.1 percent versus two years ago. China saw the worst impact, while India and Russia were the only large markets to show a month-to-month improvement compared with July 2021.
Meanwhile, international passenger demand in August finished 68.8 percent below August 2019, which represented a modest improvement on the 73.1 percent decline recorded in July. All regions showed improvement, which IATA attributed to growing vaccination rates and less stringent international travel restrictions in some regions.
“August results reflect the impact of concerns over the Delta variant on domestic travel, even as international travel continued on a snail’s pace toward a full recovery that cannot happen until governments restore the freedom to travel,” said IATA director general Willie Walsh. “In that regard, the recent U.S. announcement to lift travel restrictions from early November on fully vaccinated travelers is very good news and will bring certainty to a key market. But challenges remain, [and] September bookings indicate a deterioration in international recovery. That’s bad news heading into the traditionally slower fourth quarter.”