January 2021 IATA Air Passenger Market Analysis 
Published March 2, 2021.  

Passenger traffic deteriorates as domestic markets weaken


  • Passenger traffic fell in January. Industry-wide revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs) were down by 6.6% compared to December and by 72.0% compared to pre-crisis (January 2019) levels.
  • In contrast to the trend observed since last year’s low point in April, this deterioration in traffic was primarily driven by domestic markets (down 47.4% versus January 2019), particularly in Asia.
  • January’s renewed weakness in air travel was caused by new variants of the virus leading to a surge of new COVID cases and governments increasing travel restrictions.

African airlines post most resilient international traffic performance
As has been the case throughout most of 2020, carriers in Africa posted the most resilient international traffic performance. In January, international RPKs fell by 66.1% vs Jan 2019, up from 68.8% year-on-year in December 2020. The region benefits from less stringent restrictions and lower COVID cases.

Asian domestic markets dragged global RPKs down

After several months without any clear improvement, industry-wide revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs) deteriorated in January 2021. They were an even 72% lower than their levels in January 2019, which represent a more accurate comparison due to the large moves in traffic in early 2020. This was the first deterioration in the rate of decline since April 2020 (69.7% year-on-year in December). Note that RPKs were 72.5% lower than January 2020 levels.
    Removing seasonal fluctuations from the overall trend offers another way to accurately picture the evolution of traffic. Seasonally adjusted (SA) RPKs declined by 6.6% month-on-month, following a 5.4% decline in December...Download the full document here.