African airlines’ passenger traffic fell 78.6% in October, the International Airport Transport Association (IATA) announced, despite that the continent recorded the best performance among all regions worldwide.

The passenger traffic figures were an improvement from an 84.9% drop in September, as many African countries lifted lockdowns and re-opened borders to international travelers.

Capacity contracted 67.5% and load factor slumped 23.8 percentage points to 45.5%.

Globally, IATA reported that total demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 70.6% compared to October 2019. This was just a modest improvement from the 72.2% year-to-year decline recorded in September. Capacity was down 59.9% compared to a year ago and load factor fell 21.8 percentage points to 60.2%.

International passenger demand across the world suffered in October and dropped 87.8% compared to October 2019, a figure that remained unchanged from the 88% year-to-year decline recorded in September while domestic demand improved from a 43.0% year-to-year to 40.8% in October.

IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac warned that second wave coronavirus outbreaks and quarantines still imposed by states were responsible for continued losses incurred by airlines. “Fresh outbreaks of COVID-19 and governments’ continued reliance on heavy-handed quarantines resulted in another catastrophic month for air travel demand. While the pace of recovery is faster in some regions than others, the overall picture for international travel is grim”

He added, “This uneven recovery is more pronounced in domestic markets, with China’s domestic market having nearly recovered, while most others remain deeply depressed.” 

According to IATA, African carriers outperformed other regions, with Latin American airlines experiencing an 86.0% demand drop in October while North American carriers’ traffic tumbled 88.2% the same month.

Middle Eastern airlines recorded an 86.7% traffic drop, European carriers’ demand fell 83.0%, and Asia-Pacific airlines suffered the worst performance with an October traffic collapse of 95.6%.

IATA projects that airlines will still lose $118.5 billion this year, though the figure could drop in 2021 to $38.7 billion should borders be re-opened by mid-2021. Alexandre de Juniac called on governments to step and provide more support to the struggling industry. “Now is the time for governments to step up. The $173 billion of support provided to date has enabled the industry to survive, but more is required to carry the industry through to next summer.

“IATA has identified a range of market stimulation options that will support the viability of air routes while encouraging people to travel. Without aviation’s $3.5 trillion contribution to global GDP, there can be no broader economic recovery,” he said.

In 2019, total passenger traffic market shares by region of carriers in terms of RPK were: Asia-Pacific 34.6%, Europe 26.8%, North America 22.3%, Middle East 9.1%, Latin America 5.1%, and Africa 2.1%.

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