International air travel demand remained strong in December 2022, capping off a year of recovery for the sector, according to a report released this week by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“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,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh said in a statement.

“This momentum is expected to continue in the New Year, despite some governments’ over-reactions to China’s re-opening,” he added.

According to the report, total traffic in 2022, which is measured in revenue passenger kilometres, increased by 64.4 per cent when compared to 2021.


Willie Walsh, IATA Director General

Globally, full-year traffic for 2022 stood at 68.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, IATA noted, in reference to 2019, which was also a bumper year for tourism in Cyprus.

Moreover, in December 2022, total traffic increased by 39.7 per cent compared to December 2021 and reached 76.9 per cent of the traffic recorded during the corresponding month of 2019.

International traffic in 2022 increased by a massive 152.7 per cent when contrasted to 2021 and reached 62.2 per cent of 2019 levels.

December 2022 international traffic climbed 80.2 per cent over December 2021, reaching 75.1 per cent of the level in December 2019.

“Domestic traffic for 2022 rose 10.9 per cent compared to the prior year,” IATA stated in its report.

“2022 domestic traffic was at 79.6 per cent of the full-year 2019 level, while December 2022 domestic traffic was up 2.6 per cent over the year-earlier period and was at 79.9 per cent of December 2019 traffic,” the association added.

In terms of international passenger markets, European carriers’ full-year traffic rose by a whopping 132.2 per cent year-on-year in 2022.

In addition, their capacity increased by 84 per cent, while their load factor grew by 16.7 percentage points to 80.6 per cent.

Moreover, European carriers’ demand increased by 46.5 per cent in December 2022, when compared to the same month in 2021.

Elsewhere, Middle Eastern airlines experienced a 157.4 per cent traffic rise in 2022 compared to 2021.
Their capacity grew by 73.8 per cent while their load factor rose by 24.6 percentage points to 75.8 per cent.

Middle Eastern airline demand rose by 69.8 per cent in December 2022, compared to the same month in 2021.

“Let us hope that 2022 becomes known as the year in which governments locked away forever the regulatory shackles that kept their citizens earthbound for so long,” Walsh said.

“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 inter-connected world,” the IATA Director General added.

Walsh concluded by saying that restrictions and border closures “have an enormous negative impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as on the global economy that depends on the unfettered movement of people and goods”.