Travel demand worldwide remains strong even at the beginning of 2023. According to the most recent analysis by IATA, last January air passenger traffic (measured in passenger-kilometers) increased by 67% compared to January 2022. Globally, the traffic is now at 84.2% of January 2019 levels.
Specifically, domestic traffic increased by 32.7% compared to the period of the previous year, thanks to the abolition of the zero-Covid policy in China. Compared to 2019, the recovery stood at 97.4%.
International traffic increased by 104% compared to January 2022, with all markets reporting strong growth, led by carriers from the Asia-Pacific region. The industry is therefore at a recovery of 77% of the levels of January 2019.
“Demand for air travel is off to a strong start in 2023. The swift lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on domestic and international travel in China bodes well for the industry’s continued strong recovery from the pandemic throughout the year. Moreover, the numerous economic and geopolitical uncertainties of recent days have not stopped the demand for travel,” Willie Walsh said, IATA general director.
The air passenger traffic forecasts are equally positive for the coming months. With a strong travel demand that continues even during the winter season, traditionally slower in the northern hemisphere, an even more eventful spring and summer are heralding.
At a time when many are just starting to enjoy the recently restored freedoms of travel; however, it is particularly disappointing to see that the Dutch government is planning to restrict their travel by unilaterally and unfairly limiting operations at Schiphol Airport.
According to the European Travel and Tourism Economics Commission (ETC), travel between China and Europe is only expected to reach 60-70% of the pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with forecast booking data showing that "Chinese travelers still favor domestic flights". Travel between China and Europe will continue to lag behind other long-haul markets. They are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2026.
In contrast, travel from the United States to Europe is expected to exceed 80% of 2019 levels this year, before fully recovering to pre-pandemic levels in 2024.