By Judson Rollins
May 20, 2021, © Leeham News: Despite widespread hope, the global passenger travel recovery many expected in 2021 has proven elusive to date. Airline industry advocate International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that March global passenger traffic was still down more than two-thirds from 2019.
First-quarter airline earnings in most parts of the world have been lackluster or worse as borders remain closed and business travel continues to be deeply depressed, even within the few countries where vaccine rollouts have made the greatest progress. And jet fuel prices have rebounded to nearly where they were before the pandemic.
Traffic volumes are rapidly growing in the US and Chinese domestic markets, but US carriers are reporting average yields 20%-30% below pre-COVID levels. Chinese carriers don’t provide any visibility into their yields. Forward booking data from IATA shows the domestic-international divergence will only widen in the coming months.
Air cargo continues to cushion the fall in passenger revenue at many airlines, but to nowhere near the extent necessary to fully offset it.