The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published its latest air traffic figures for March 2023, with all markets “recording health growth”.

The association said that global traffic had reached 88 per cent of March 2019 levels, with domestic traffic now near pre-pandemic levels (98.9 per cent).

Recovery in international traffic has been lagging behind due to the gradual easing of border restrictions, but has now reached 81.6 per cent of March 2019 levels, led by the recent resurgence of carriers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia-Pacific airlines recorded a 283.1 per cent increase in traffic compared to March 2022, with African carriers posting a 71.7 per cent increase, European airlines up 38.5 per cent, Middle Eastern carriers up 43.1 per cent, US airlines up 51.6 per cent, and Latin American carriers up 36.5 per cent.

Commenting on the news Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General said that the first quarter had “ended on a strong note for air travel demand”.

“Domestic markets have been near their pre-pandemic levels for months,” said Walsh. And for international travel two key waypoints were topped. First, demand increased by 3.5 percentage points compared to the previous month’s growth, to reach 81.6% of pre-COVID levels.

“This was led by a near-tripling of demand for Asia-Pacific carriers as China’s re-opening took hold. And efficiency is improving as international load factors reached 81.3%. Even more importantly, ticket sales for both domestic and international travel give every indication that strong growth will continue into the peak Northern Hemisphere summer travel season.”

Walsh added that “As traveller expectations build towards the peak Northern Hemisphere summer travel season, airlines are doing their best to meet the desire and need to fly”, but warned that “a lack of capacity means that some of those travellers may be disappointed”.

“Part of this capacity shortfall is attributable to the widely reported labour shortages impacting many parts of the aviation value chain, as well as supply chain issues affecting the aircraft manufacturing sector that is resulting in aircraft delivery delays.

“However, a significant share of recent flight cancellations, primarily in Europe, are owing to job actions by air traffic controllers and others. These irresponsible actions resulted in thousands of unnecessary cancellations in March. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the authorities.”

IATA has previously said that it expects air passenger numbers to exceed pre-Covid levels in 2024.

IATA: air passenger numbers to recover in 2024