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Monday,  March 4, 2024 11:51 PM 

Air travel recovery is continuing, but gov’ts must invest in clean fuel: IATA

  • Air
  •   02-01-2024  4:32 am
  •   Pax Global Media

Air travel recovery is continuing, but gov’ts must invest in clean fuel: IATA
Pax Global Media

Air travel’s recovery continued in December 2023, and total traffic last year edged closer to matching pre-pandemic demand, reports the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In a Jan. 31 news release, the association says total traffic in 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 36.9 per cent compared to 2022.

Globally, full year 2023 traffic was at 94.1 per cent of pre-pandemic (2019) levels.

December 2023 total traffic rose 25.3 per cent compared to December 2022 and reached 97.5 per cent of the December 2019 level.

Fourth quarter traffic was at 98.2 per cent of 2019, reflecting the strong recovery towards the end of the year, IATA says.

International traffic in 2023 climbed 41.6 per cent versus 2022 and reached 88.6 per cent of 2019 levels.

December 2023 international traffic climbed 24.2 per cent over December 2022, reaching 94.7 per cent of the level in December 2019. Fourth quarter traffic was at 94.5 per cent of 2019.

Domestic traffic for 2023, meanwhile, rose 30.4 per cent compared to the prior year, IATA says.

North American carriers, for one, reported a 28.3 per cent annual traffic rise in 2023 compared to 2022.

Capacity for that same market increased 22.4 per cent, and load factor climbed 3.9 percentage points to 84.6 per cent.

December 2023 traffic in North America rose 13.5 per cent compared to the year-ago period.

“The strong post-pandemic rebound continued in 2023. December traffic stood just 2.5 per cent below 2019 levels, with a strong performance in quarter four, teeing-up airlines for a return to normal growth patterns in 2024,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, in a statement.

“The recovery in travel is good news. The restoration of connectivity is powering the global economy as people travel to do business, further their educations, take hard-earned vacations and much more.”

Governments need to be strategic

Still, to maximize the benefits of air travel in a post-COVID world, “governments need to take a strategic approach,” Walsh added.

“That means providing cost-efficient infrastructure to meet demand, incentivizing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production to meet our net zero carbon emission goal by 2050, and adopting regulations that deliver a clear cost-benefit,” he said.

“Completing the recovery must not be an excuse for governments to forget the critical role of aviation to increasing the prosperity and well-being of people and businesses the world over.”

The bottom line

The bottom line, Walsh said, is that aviation’s push to connect the world “must not come at the expense of our environment.”

“The industry’s goal to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 remains steadfast,” he said. “To accelerate the transition, we need governments and fuel suppliers to step up and do more.”

He says IATA saw a strong increase in the use of SAF in 2023 – but SAF is still only three per cent of all global renewable fuels production.

“That is unacceptable,” Walsh said. “Aircraft have no option but to rely on liquid fuels, whereas other transport modes have alternatives.”

“A massive collective effort is needed to increase SAF output as a proportion of overall renewable fuel production as quickly as possible.”

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