Air travel has taken another major leap in 2023 rising to 94 percent of 2019 levels as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The International Air Transport Association said on Wednesday that domestic travel in key markets such as China, India and the United States had led the rebound but it expected a "normal" growth rate in 2024.
Based on revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), travel in the fourth quarter of 2023 alone was 98.4 percent of where it was four years earlier, Iata said.
"The restoration of connectivity is powering the global economy as people travel to do business, further their educations, take hard-earned vacations and much more," said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.
He called on governments to take a strategic approach to maximize the benefits of air travel in the post-pandemic era.
"That means providing cost-efficient infrastructure to meet demand, incentivizing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production to meet our net zero carbon emission goal by 2050, and adopting regulations that deliver a clear cost-benefit," he explained.
Lockdowns and border closures starting in March 2020 devastated the airline industry, with travel for the full year falling to 34.2 percent of 2019 levels. Recovery was slow, rising to 41.6 percent in 2021 and 68.5 percent in 2022.
Slow recovery for international travel
IATA said national travel was recovering faster than international flights.
Domestic flights reached 104 percent of their 2019 RPK, driven by an end to travel restrictions in China, where travel rose 139 percent from the previous year.
There was also strong growth in domestic travel in India and the United States.
International travel has been slower to recover, rising last year to 88.6 percent of 2019 levels.
Flights to and from the Asia-Pacific region were at 72.7 percent of 2019's numbers, while to and from Europe were 93 percent and North America at 101.4 percent.
Iata represents 320 airlines accounting for 83 percent of the world's travel.