Official response to COVID-19 Delta hurts air travel recovery 1

Official response to COVID-19 Delta hurts air travel recovery

  • Total demand for air travel in August 2021 was down 56.0% compared to August 2019. 
  • This was entirely driven by domestic markets, which were down 32.2% compared to August 2019, a major deterioration from July 2021.
  • International passenger demand in August was 68.8% below August 2019, which was an improvement compared to the 73.1% decline recorded in July. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel decelerated in August compared to July, as government actions in response to concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant cut deeply into domestic travel demand. 

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to July 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in August 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 56.0% compared to August 2019. This marked a slowdown from July, when demand was 53.0% below July 2019 levels.  
  • This was entirely driven by domestic markets, which were down 32.2% compared to August 2019, a major deterioration from July 2021, when traffic was down 16.1% versus two years ago. The worst impact was in China, while India and Russia were the only large markets to show a month-to-month improvement compared to July 2021. 
  • International passenger demand in August was 68.8% below August 2019, which was an improvement compared to the 73.1% decline recorded in July. All regions showed improvement, which was attributable to growing vaccination rates and less stringent international travel restrictions in some regions.

“August results reflect the impact of concerns over the Delta variant on domestic travel, even as international travel continued on a snail’s pace toward a full recovery that cannot happen until governments restore the freedom to travel. In that regard, the recent US announcement to lift travel restrictions from early November on fully vaccinated travelers is very good news and will bring certainty to a key market. But challenges remain, September bookings indicate a deterioration in international recovery. That’s bad news heading into the traditionally slower fourth quarter,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. 


August 2021(% chg vs the same month in 2019) World share1 RPK ASK PLF (%-pt)2 PLF (level)3
Total Market  100.0% -56.0% -46.2% -15.6% 70.0%
Africa 1.9% -58.0% -50.4% -11.5% 64.0%
Asia Pacific 38.6% -78.3% -66.5% -29.6% 54.5%
Europe 23.7% -48.7% -38.7% -14.4% 74.6%
Latin America 5.7% -42.0% -37.7% -5.8% 77.4%
Middle East 7.4% -68.0% -53.1% -26.0% 56.0%
North America 22.7% -30.3% -22.7% -8.6% 78.6%
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