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Air passenger demand recovering slightly from April's record low: IATA

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Global passenger traffic plunged 94.3% year on year in April

Daily flight totals rise 30% low on April 21 and May 27

Domestic flights in Asia helping recovery in May

Dubai — Global air passenger demand has started to recover slightly in May after plummeting to a record low in April due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the International Air Transport Association said June 3.

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Global passenger demand plunged 94.3% year on year in April, but recent figures show that daily flight totals rose 30% between the low point on April 21 and May 27 due to domestic operations and off of a very low base (5.7% of 2019 demand).

"April was a disaster for aviation as air travel almost entirely stopped. But April may also represent the nadir of the crisis," IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement. "Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions. And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets such as China, Germany, and the US. These are positive signs as we start to rebuild the industry from a stand-still. The initial green shoots will take time -- possibly years -- to mature."

Data from late May shows that flight levels in South Korea, China and Vietnam increased to a point now just 22%-28% lower than a year earlier, IATA added. Searches for air travel on Google also were up 25% by the end of May from a month earlier, although the increase was from a very low base and still 60% lower than at the start of 2020.

Air freight

Global air freight demand in April also posted its steepest drop ever as the capacity crunch continued to plague the international cargo market due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions,

Global air freight demand plunged 27.7% year on year in April, while capacity plummeted by 42% due to the loss of belly-cargo operations on passenger aircraft, the association said.

"There is a severe capacity crunch in air cargo," said de Juniac said in another statement. "The result is damaging global supply chains with longer shipping times and higher costs. Airlines are deploying as much capacity as possible, including special charter operations and the temporary use of passenger cabins for cargo."

Belly capacity for international air cargo contracted by 75% on the year in April, partially offset by a 15% increase in capacity through expanded use of freighter aircraft, IATA said.

Jet fuel demand

Jet fuel, which accounts for 8% of the global oil demand, has been the biggest casualty of the demand destruction caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Demand for aviation fuel in April fell as much as 60% as the sector halted due to lockdown measures in place in most of the world.

"Governments need to continue to ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient," said de Juniac. "While many have responded with speed and clarity to facilitate the movement of cargo, government red-tape -- particularly in Africa and Latin America -- is preventing the industry from flexibly deploying aircraft to meet the demands of the pandemic and the global economy."

Latin American carriers posted the sharpest fall among all regions in April, with a 38.9% year on year drop in international demand. International capacity dropped 55.5% in Latin America.

"The COVID-19 crisis is particularly challenging for airlines based in Latin America owing to strict containment measures and a lack of support from governments to keep cargo moving," IATA said.

--Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Dart, newsdesk@spglobal.com