International air transport is recovering strongly this year, with the exception of the Asia-Pacific region, which is “significantly behind”, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“Last year, international travel was about 25% of what it was in 2019. In the first quarter of this year, worldwide it grew by 42%,” said Squawk Box Asia, Willie Walsh, CEO of the industry body. on Tuesday.

“In fact, we are seeing very strong growth rates in some markets, in the US, Europe, Latin America, and they are all reaching around 60%.”

For example, shares of United Airlines added more than 3% in extended trading on Monday after the company released an update on its forecast for the second quarter.

On the contrary, air travel in Asia is “only about 13% of what it was in 2019,” Walsh added.

China continues to pursue its zero-Covid policy, while Shanghai and Beijing are tightening restrictions on business and travel. But China’s travel restrictions will not play a big role in resuming global air travel, he said.

“The positive thing is that many other markets are opening up, so airlines have the opportunity to expand their network … to these markets,” he added.

The growth of “Premium” trips.

Asked whether the airline’s business segment would return to pre-pandemic levels, Walsh said the recovery would be “a little slower”.

“We have a lot of business people traveling in the economy … business recovery is a little behind,” he added.

“But I think now everyone will understand that this is not going to be a fundamental structural shift that we all believed could happen.”

In contrast, he noted that there are more “premium” travelers traveling in first class or business class.

“It shows that there was a very important market segment that we call premium holidays … what we see is people have more cash income and are willing to pay for that premium and experience.”

“I am totally waiting for the awards [to] continue to recover quickly, ”Walsh added.

To meet this demand, airlines are offering luxury cabins in hopes of forcing high-paying customers to shell out more space on board.

For example, Singapore Airlines noted that business-class seats in aircraft are sold out earlier than economy-class seats, which is “the reverse of the pandemic trend.”

Tasks for air travel

Even as the resumption of air travel is gaining momentum, IATA sees “some challenges” for the global airline market.

“In 2021 we were record-breaking and continue to improve in 2022 … but they have fallen slightly from those 2021 highs.”

Walsh attributed this mainly to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. “A lot of cargo was transported by Russian cargo operators, security was completely destroyed,” he added.

The IATA report said that in March, air traffic fell by 5.2% over the same period last year.

“The war in Ukraine has led to a decline in the opportunities used to serve Europe, as several airlines based in Ukraine and Russia were the most important carriers in the region,” the ministry said.

“The current proliferation of Omicron in Asia, and in China in particular, is causing new blockages and labor shortages. This has severely affected manufacturing centers in China and Asia, which in turn has damaged air freight in markets related to the region.”

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