September 2021 IATA Air Passenger Market Analysis 
Published November 3, 2021.  

Air travel trends higher


  • Global air travel picked up in September, following a slight deterioration in the previous month. Industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) were down 53% compared with pre-crisis 2019. In month-on-month terms, RPKs rose by 18% – a robust improvement, but from a very low base.
  • This month’s growth can be largely attributed to the recovery in domestic markets, in particular China where some travel curbs that had been implemented during COVID outbreaks in August were lifted.
  • Travel bookings point to further passenger growth across domestic and international markets, but any significant improvement looks unlikely in the near-term.

Travel restrictions and vaccine hesitancy in Africa slowing recovery

Travel restrictions were either unchanged or relaxed vs. August but remain overall elevated. The most progress in terms of border openings was achieved by the group of African, Middle Eastern countries and in Latin America. Vaccination rates have been rising around the world, albeit slowly. Nearly half of the global population has received at least one vaccine dose as of October, but large differences remain across advanced and emerging markets. An additional challenge is vaccine hesitancy, which makes countries vulnerable to new COVID outbreaks and prevents them from lifting all control measures. One of the latest challenges to the air travel rebound is rising inflation around the world. Should the trend in soaring prices continue, it might slow the economic activity and eat up the savings that people accumulated during the pandemic. This might in turn negatively impact travelers’ plans for future travel.

Air travel recovery resumed after a pause in August

Air travel picked up in September, after a slight deterioration in the previous month, but remained well below pre-crisis levels. Industry-wide revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs) fell by 53% compared with pre-crisis September 2019, vs. a 56% contraction in August. In month-on-month terms, RPKs rose by 18% – a robust improvement but from a very low base...Download the full document here.