Omicron causes sharp drop in flight ticket sales: IATA

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Airfare sales plummeted in late 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Wednesday, blaming governments for “overreacting” to the Omicron COVID variant by closing borders.

The IATA, which groups more than 290 airlines, said international air traffic recovered slowly but steadily from the massive shutdowns of 2020 and early 2021 before the rapidly spreading Omicron strain was discovered in late November.

Ticket sales in November were 60.5 percent below pre-pandemic levels in November 2019, an improvement from the 64.8 percent drop a month earlier.

“Unfortunately, governments overreacted to the rise of the Omicron variant at the end of the month and resorted to the tried and true methods of border closures, excessive testing of travelers and quarantine to slow the spread,” IATA president Willie Walsh accused .

“Not surprisingly, international ticket sales fell sharply in December and early January compared to 2019, suggesting that the first quarter was more difficult than expected,” he added.

IATA members account for 83 percent of global air traffic.

In October, the association forecast cumulative industry losses of $11.6 billion in 2022, down from estimated $51.8 billion in 2021 and $137.7 billion in 2020.

The International Civil Aviation Organization said separately on Wednesday that preliminary data shows that air passenger numbers fell by 49 percent last year from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

That was an improvement from the 60 percent drop in 2020.

The ICAO, a UN body, said airlines lost $324 billion in revenue last year due to the drop in traffic, which was less than $372 billion in lost revenue in 2020.

It forecast an improvement in 2022 to a 26 to 31 percent drop in passenger numbers, and lost revenues between $186 and $217 billion, with the international segment continuing to be the hardest hit.

The IATA said it expected US airlines to return to profits this year, but European airlines, which operate more long-haul flights and are therefore more exposed to border closures, would remain in the red.

Airlines will lose $51.8 billion in 2021, stay red in 2022: IATA

© 2022 AFP

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