The Air Transport Monthly Monitor for May 2022

The numbers that are shared in the article below reflect the numbers in March 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.

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  • 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 March 2022

Total Scheduled Services (Domestic and International)

Passenger traffic

Revenue Passenger-Kilometres   –   RPK

World passenger traffic fell by -41.3% in March 2022 (compared to 2019), +4.2 percentage points up from the decline in the previous month. The upward trend in air travel recovery since February was the result of the relaxation of restrictions against Omicron and the solid travel demand. The improvement in domestic air travel however weakened, mainly due to the significant fall in China’s domestic travel, impacted by the new lockdown and tightened travel restrictions. As the COVID-19 related restrictions are being eased, global air travel recovery is expected to continue.

International Traffic vs. Tourist Arrivals

International passenger numbers fell by -48.4% in March 2022 (compared to 2019), +8.7 percentage points up from the decline in the previous month. International air travel recovery accelerated in all regions including Asia/Pacific, albeit at a slower pace. The strongest improvement was recorded by Europe, followed by the Middle East.

The recovery in international tourist arrivals followed the similar trend as international passenger traffic.


Available Seat-Kilometres   –   ASK

Capacity worldwide fell by -35.5% in March 2022 (compared to 2019), +1.5 percentage point down from the decline in the previous month (-37.0%). As load factor races to reach pre-pandemic levels, the capacity in April is expected to improve to -31.9% down from the 2019 level.

Load Factor 

The passenger Load Factor reached 74.7% in March 2022, +4.9 percentage points higher than the previous month. Despite the improvement, the March LF remained -7.0 percentage points below the 2019 level.

Cargo Traffic

Cargo (Freight) Tonne-Kilometres  – CTK

World freight traffic reported a decline of -1.4% in March 2022 (compared to 2019), -13.3 percentage points down from the growth in the previous month. For the first time since January 2021, air cargo recorded negative growth from the 2019 pre-crisis level. Unlike the passenger traffic, both the Omicron-related restrictions, especially in Asia/Pacific, and the Ukraine-Russia conflict have strongly impacted the global trade which in turn dampened the air cargo demand. Europe recorded the largest decline compared to the 2019 levels, followed by Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean and the Middle East. While Africa and North America remained above the pre-crisis levels, their growth slowed down substantially compared to the previous month.

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

Note: Figures include total scheduled and non-scheduled services

March 2022:   –10.3%, -14.2%, and +7.7% (vs. 2019) in terms of aircraft movements, passengers and freight for the Top 15

In terms of aircraft movements, the Top 15 airports reported a combined fall of -10.3%, compared to 2019. All but two of the Top 15 airports were US airports. Atlanta remained 1st with a decline of -22.0%. New Delhi and Amsterdam re-appeared in the Top 15, and the former posted the second smallest decline within the Top 15. Two airports posted increases, i.e. Las Vegas and Miami.

In terms of passengers, the Top 15 airports posted a total fall of -14.2%, compared to 2019. US airports continued to dominate the list, with 11 in the Top 15. Atlanta remained 1st with a decline of -18.0%. London recorded the largest fall of -35.7%, followed by Los Angeles at -29.4%. For the second consecutive month, Denver and Miami posted positive growth over 2019.

In terms of freight, the Top 15 airports reported an increase of +7.7%, compared to 2019. Ten out of the Top 15 airports posted an increase with double-digital growth. Anchorage recorded the strongest growth at +27.2%, followed by Taipei at +26.3%. The Top 3 airports, however, showed declines compared to the pre-pandemic levels.

Top 15 Airline Groups (Ranked by RPK)

March 2022: 30.0% (vs. 2019) in terms of RPK for the Top 15

In terms of RPK, the Top 15 airline groups accounted for 59.7% of the world’s total RPK in March 2022 and declined by –30.0% compared to 2019This decline was 19.6 percentage points smaller than the fall in world’s average RPK. Most airlines in the Top 15 showed smaller declines compared to February owing to the ease of travel restrictions.

The U.S. airlines retained the Top 4 positions, with American at 1st, followed by United, Delta and Southwest. With the solid recovery in domestic traffic, both Jetblue and Alaska ranked in the Top 15. Airlines in Europe continued to show improvements, especially in international traffic as the restrictions in the region have been gradually relaxed. IAG improved most noticeably and moved up 3 positions from 8th to 5th.

The Chinese domestic traffic experienced a sharp decline, impacted by lockdowns and tightened travel restrictions to control the spread of the Omicron variant. As a result, out of the major Chinese airlines, only China Southern retained its position within the Top 15.

The performance of airlines in the Middle East also improved. While Emirates maintained the 6th position, Qatar climbed 2 positions to 8th.

Capacity by Region

March 2022: -35.5% (vs. 2019) in terms of World ASK

Worldwide capacity contracted by -35.5% in March 2022, compared to 2019. Passenger capacity continues to rebound as demand is returning along with the gradual ease of travel restrictions. North America demonstrated the most resilience with capacity approaching the pre-crisis level. Asia/Pacific continued to be the slowest recovering region, and was the only region experiencing deterioration.

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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.