The Air Transport Monthly Monitor for March 2022

The numbers that are shared in the article below reflect the numbers in January 2022. The analysis of the economic and aviation indicators we share here reflect the continuing impact of COVID-19 on this industry.

The air transport industry is not only a vital engine of global socio-economic growth, but it is also of vital importance as a catalyst for economic development. Not only does the industry create direct and indirect employment and support tourism and local businesses, but it also stimulates foreign investment and international trade.

Informed decision-making is the foundation upon which successful businesses are built. In a fast-growing industry like aviation, planners and investors require the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and reliable data. ICAO’s aviation data/statistics programme provides accurate, reliable and consistent aviation data so that States, international organizations, the aviation industry, tourism and other stakeholders can:

  • make better projections;
  • control costs and risks;
  • improve business valuations; and
  • benchmark performance.

The UN recognized ICAO as the central agency responsible for the collection, analysis, publication, standardization, improvement and dissemination of statistics pertaining to civil aviation. Because of its status as a UN specialized agency, ICAO remains independent from outside influences and is committed to consistently offering comprehensive and objective data. Every month ICAO produces this Air Transport Monitor, a monthly snapshot and analysis of the economic and aviation indicators.


World Results and Analyses for January 2022

Total Scheduled Services (Domestic and International)

Passenger traffic

Revenue Passenger-Kilometres   –   RPK

World passenger traffic fell by -49.6% in January 2022 (compared to 2019), -4.5 percentage points down from the decline in the previous month. The start of 2022 was hit by the proliferation of the Omicron variant across the globe. Air travel recovery trended sideways, disrupted by stricter travel restrictions and flight cancellations. The weakening in several markets contributed to the overall deterioration, such as the U.S. and Indian domestic markets, and the international travel of the Middle East and North America.

International Traffic vs. Tourist Arrivals

International passenger numbers fell by -60.2% in January 2022 (compared to 2019), -6.1 percentage points down from the decline in the previous month. The Omicron outbreak adversely affected international travel in all regions, particularly the Middle East and North America. The recovery in international tourist arrivals further weakened, following a similar trend as international air travel.


Available Seat-Kilometres   –   ASK

Capacity worldwide fell by -37.7% in January 2022 (compared to 2019), -0.1 percentage point down from the decline in the previous month (-37.6%). With signs of easing restrictions against the Omicron outbreak, the February capacity is expected to improve to 37.2% down from the 2019 level.


Load Factor 

The passenger Load Factor reached 64.5% in January 2022, -7.8 percentage points lower than the previous month. Load factor fell significantly as air travel demand declined more than capacity. As a result, the January LF was -15.1 percentage points below the 2019 level.

Freight Traffic

Freight Tonne-Kilometres  – FTK

World freight traffic reported a growth of +2.7% in January 2022 (compared to 2019), -6.2 percentage points down from the growth in the previous month. Air cargo growth has been volatile in the last few months and slowed down remarkably, affected by both the Omicron outbreak and the decrease in export after the peak year-end consumer events.

The softening was broad-based across all regions, particularly in Asia/Pacific, North America, and Latin America/Caribbean, which posted a drastic weakening in growth. Africa recorded relatively similar growth in December 2021, while the Middle East posted the weakest performance among all regions.

Top 15 Airports (Ranked by aircraft departures, passengers, and volume of freight)

Note: Figures include total scheduled and non-scheduled services

January 2022: 13.9%, -27.8%, and +9.9% (vs. 2019) in terms of aircraft departures, passengers and freight for the Top 15

In terms of aircraft departures, the Top 15 airports reported a combined fall of -13.9%, compared to 2019. All but three of the Top 15 airports were US airports. Atlanta overtook Chicago and became 1st despite a double-digit fall of -20.9%. Miami and Las Vegas were the only airports posting increases at +6.3% and +11.8%, respectively.

In terms of passengers, the Top 15 airports posted a total fall of -27.8%, compared to 2019. US airports continued to dominant the list, with 9 in the Top 15. Atlanta remained 1st with a decline of -25.4%. Chicago and Miami recorded the smallest declines of -4.9% and -4.8%, respectively. Guangzhou and Dubai recorded the largest fall of -50.5% and -50.1%, respectively.

In terms of freight, the Top 15 airports reported an increase of +9.9%, compared to 2019. Over half of the Top 15 airports grew double-digitally, with Chicago recording the strongest growth at a robust +55.0%. Hong Kong remained 1st albeit with a decline of -1.2%. Dubai continued to post declines for the fifth consecutive month.

Top 15 Airline Groups (Ranked by RPK)

January 2022: -43.5% (vs. 2019) in terms of RPK for the Top 15

In terms of RPK, the Top 15 airline groups accounted for 46.2% of the world’s total RPK in January 2022 and declined by –43.5% compared to 2019This decline was 3.5 percentage points smaller than the fall in world’s average RPK. Several major airlines were substantially impacted by the Omicron outbreak and the reinforced travel restrictions worldwide.

The U.S. airlines retained the Top 4 positions, with American at 1st, followed by United, Delta and Southwest. The four airlines, however, posted larger declines compared to December 2021. As the strict travel restrictions remained in place, only two Chinese airlines ranked in the Top 15, i.e. China Southern and China Eastern. With slight improvement, the former ranked 4 positions up to 6th, while the latter remained at 15th.

Major European airlines also posted a slowdown in recovery, with the most drastic deterioration recorded by IAG, which dropped 8 positions from 5th to 13th. Small fluctuations were observed among the others. Emirates maintained the position of 7th, while Qatar improved to 9th. LATAM stayed at 14th for the third consecutive month and posted a similar decline compared to the previous month.  

Capacity by Region

January 2022: -37.2% (vs. 2019) in terms of World ASK

Worldwide capacity contracted by -37.2% in January 2022, compared to 2019. All regions saw smaller declines, except for the Middle East and Europe, which saw more capacity reduction amid the Omicron outbreak. North America and Latin America/Caribbean posted the smallest contractions, while Asia/Pacific was the slowest recovering region.

Click here to download the Monthly Monitor in a PDF version.

For any queries for further information, please contact the ICAO Economic Development (ECD), Air Transport Bureau

Acronyms: ACI: Airports Council International; ASK: Available Seat-Kilometres; IATA: International Air Transport Association; FTK: Freight Tonne-Kilometres; LF: Passenger Load Factor; OAG: Official Airline Guide; RPK: Revenue Passenger-Kilometres; UNWTO: World Tourism Organization; YoY: Year-on-year; YTD: Year-to-date.


airport trafficeconomic developmentmonthly monitorpassenger traffic