New data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for global air traffic shows figures are approaching pre-Covid levels.
The association said that global air travel in November reached 99.1 per cent of 2019 levels, measured in revenue passenger kilometres.
Domestic traffic was 6.7 per cent above pre-pandemic levels, with growth particularly strong in China (up 272 per cent on November 2022) due to restrictions still being in place a year ago.
International traffic continues to lag behind domestic demand, but has now reached 94.5 per cent of 2019 levels, with the Asia-Pacific region registering the strongest gains (up 63.8 per cent on November 2022).
“We are moving ever closer to surpassing the 2019 peak year for air travel,” said IATA’s director general Willie Walsh.
“Economic headwinds are not deterring people from taking to the skies. International travel remains 5.5 per cent below pre-pandemic levels but that gap is rapidly closing. And domestic markets have been above their pre-pandemic levels continuously since April.”
Walsh also commented on the aviation industry’s decarbonisation efforts, stating that “In parallel to aviation’s recovery, governments recognized the urgency of transitioning from jet fuel to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for aviation’s decarbonisation”.
“The Third Conference on Aviation Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) in November saw governments agree that we should see 5 per cent carbon savings by 2030 from SAF,” said Walsh.
“This was followed up at COP28 in December where governments agreed that we need a broad transition from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Airlines don’t need convincing.
“They agreed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and every drop of SAF ever made in that effort has been bought and used. There simply is not enough SAF being produced.
“So we look to 2024 to be the year when governments follow-up on their own declarations and finally deliver comprehensive policy measures to incentivize the rapid scaling-up of SAF production.”
Last month IATA released figures showing that around 1.875 billion litres of SAF are expected to be produced this year, triple the 600 million litres produced in 2023, which in turn was double the 300 million litres produced in 2022.
But the association stressed that the 2024 figures equate to just 0.53 per cent of the industry’s fuel needs, and warned that SAF output is expected to account for just 6 per cent of all renewable fuels produced this year, with 94 per cent going to other sectors.