European airlines’ traffic doubled in 2022 compared with the previous year but the market still remained 22.2 per cent lower than during the pre-Covid year of 2019.
The latest passenger figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed the global recovery in air travel carrying on through to the end of December, with this positive “momentum” continuing into 2023.
Europe was one of the regions to see the strongest recovery in air traffic in 2022 – ranking only behind North America, where traffic was only 11.3 per cent below 2019 levels, and Latin America (14.2 per cent behind 2019).
Total global traffic, as measured by revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), was still 31.5 per cent below 2019 levels for the whole of 2022, although this figure had improved to a deficit of 23.1 per cent by December.
European airlines saw a particularly strong growth in international traffic in 2022, which rose by more than 132 per cent compared with 2021 as capacity increased by 84 per cent over the same period. This helped the continent’s carriers raise load factor from a lowly 63.9 per cent in 2021 to 80.6 per cent last year.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said: “The industry left 2022 in far stronger shape than it entered, as most governments lifted Covid-19 travel restrictions during the year and people took advantage of the restoration of their freedom to travel. This momentum is expected to continue in the new year, despite some governments’ over-reactions to China’s reopening.
“It is vital that governments learn the lesson that travel restrictions and border closures have little positive impact in terms of slowing the spread of infectious diseases in our globally interconnected world.”