Earlier this month, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that global air traffic increased significantly in February 2022 compared to January 2022, as the effects of Omikronus eased outside Asia.
Founded in 1945, IATA represents approximately 290 airlines in 120 countries, transporting 83 percent of the world’s air traffic.
In Southeast Asia, as more and more countries reopen their borders for quarantined leisure visits, although with varying degrees of testing requirements for COVID, Indians make up a significant number of travelers to the region.
On April 6, IATA announced that total air traffic in February 2022, including international and domestic flights (measured in passenger-kilometers or RPKs), had increased 115.9 percent compared to February 2021. This is an improvement over January 2022, which increased 83 , 1 percent compared to January 2021. This was when the health risk posed by the COVID-19 Omicron strain began to subside in many countries.
However, compared to February 2019 before the COVID pandemic, attendance fell by 45.5 percent.
Domestic air transport has experienced a more significant expansion than international air transport. In February 2022, domestic transport increased by 60.7 percent year-on-year, following a 42.6 percent increase in January 2022 compared to January 2021. National transport was 21.8 percent lower in February than in February 2019. .
There were big differences in the domestic markets monitored by IATA. The market in the United States is growing strongly and only 6.6 percent avoids where it was in February 2019, measured by the RPK. Russia rose 15 percent, Japan 64.8 percent and China 35.3 percent. Australia is 53.8 percent lower than in February 2019, but is expected to improve when the country relaxes COVID.
China, which still adheres to its COVID zero strategy and is experiencing severe blockades in its major cities, including Shanghai, is expected to deteriorate in its domestic air transport market in March.
Similarly, Russia, which had seen a sharp rise in air traffic by February, is expected to see a drop in air traffic for another reason – the war in Ukraine. The war, which began on February 24, did not have a significant impact on the level of traffic during the period under review.
As for international air transport, it is still 59.6 percent lower in February 2022 compared to the same month in 2019. However, compared to the last months and a year ago, the data showed a significant upward trend. International RPKs increased by 256.8% compared to February 2021 and improved from a 165.5% year-on-year increase in January 2022 compared to the previous period. All regions improved their performance compared to the previous month.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 144.4 percent increase in international traffic in February compared to February 2021, more than the 125.8 percent increase in January 2022 compared to January 2021. Although capacity increased by 60.8 percent and occupancy by 16.1 percent 47 percent, which is the lowest among the regions.
The main reason is the reopening of the heterogeneous borders in the region and especially in China and Japan, which are two of the largest travel markets in Asia.
It is well known that when Omicron rages in the country, China still hangs on its zero COVID policy and the country is largely closed to the outside world. Although Japan has recently increased the number of foreigners allowed to enter the country per day, from 7,000 to 10,000, it only allows students and business travelers to enter. It is still not open to tourists.
As most of North Asia is still closed, the countries of Southeast Asia lead in regional cross-border travel.
A Reuters article quoting ForwardKeys states that international airlines’ bookings to Southeast Asia reached 38 percent pre-pandemic levels by the end of March. At the beginning of the year, it was only 10 percent of the levels of 2019.
As expected, the countries that opened up with the most relaxed rules for COVID visits, Singapore and the Philippines, saw the largest increases in bookings. ForwardKeys data showed that bookings in Singapore and the Philippines were at 72 percent and 65 percent at 2019.
Thailand, which was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region before the COVID pandemic, still requires a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on arrival and visitors to isolate themselves at an approved hotel while waiting for test results. In addition, it requires visitors to perform a rapid antigen test on day 5. Not surprisingly, this is only 24 percent of the reservation levels that occurred before COVID.
Tourist analysts say that testing on arrival discourages visitors because it adds a layer of uncertainty, as passengers may find themselves in a situation where they spend their holidays isolated in a government facility if tested positive.
The latest data from the Singapore Tourism Council (STB) revealed that Singapore had 67,760 arrivals in February 2022, which is 18.5 percent more than in the previous month. It’s more than three times higher than in 2021, but it’s still well below the 1.69 million recorded in January 2020, the last full month before the cessation of international travel in Singapore for COVID.
Indians are the largest group of travelers to Singapore in January and February this year with more than 27,000 visitors. Indonesians and Malaysians from the other largest groups during the first two months of the year with 12,750 and 9,670 arrivals. Singapore had a total of 124,930 visitors during this period.
Air travel in Asia is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until China, the region’s largest source of tourists, is completely open to overseas travel. IATA expects air traffic in the Asia-Pacific region to reach only 68 percent of the 2019 level this year and to reach pre-pandemic traffic in 2025, a year behind the rest of the world.
“The revival of air traffic is gaining momentum as governments in many parts of the world lift travel restrictions. Instead of tackling the disease, as we do with other diseases, countries risk losing the huge economic and social benefits that restoring international connectivity will bring, ”said Willie Walsh, IATA’s CEO.
(Business Standard employees could only rework the title and image of this report; the rest of the content is automatically generated from the syndicated feed.)