Air Travel Up In May But Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

air travel

International and domestic travel was up in May but still lower than the levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, according to a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The data showed “marginal improvements” in May compared to April but overall, the number of people flying both domestically and abroad was still off compared with traffic before the virus largely stopped air travel for most business and all leisure trips. International travel is still suffering from restrictions due to COVID-19 and its variants, per the report. 

“To paraphrase an old saying, when you think that all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Too many governments continue to act as if the only tool in their anti-COVID-19 arsenal is a blanket border closure or an arrival quarantine,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh in announcing the report. 

Walsh added that experts from worldwide medical organizations have confirmed that people who are vaccinated “pose very little risk to the local population” and there is evidence that “pre-departure testing largely removes” the chances that unvaccinated travelers can spread the virus.

Total demand for air travel in May of this year was down 62.7 percent compared to May 2019. But that was an increase over the 65.2 percent drop posted in April 2021 versus April 2019. International demand in May 2021 was 85.1 percent lower than May 2019 whereas April of this year was down 87.2 percent over 2019. 

The ITIA director also said the travel industry likely would exercise caution regarding acquisitions and forecast that some airlines will change routes and destinations.

Because travel might not rebound to the way it was before the pandemic, Fred Lalonde, CEO of travel platform Hopper, said the company started using its FinTech products to other distribution channels that sell travel to consumers. 

A study from the United Nations indicated that international travel is at stuck levels seen in the 1980s and even the best scenarios for 2021 are still looking rather formidable.