GENEVA -- The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that air travel posted a strong rebound in February 2022 compared to January 2022, as Omicron-related impacts moderated outside of Asia.

Total traffic in February 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was up 115.9% compared to February 2021. That is an improvement from January 2022, which was up 83.1% compared to January 2021. Compared to February 2019, however, traffic was down 45.5%.

February 2022 domestic traffic was up 60.7% compared to the year-ago period, building on a 42.6% increase in January 2022 compared to January 2021. There was wide variation in markets tracked by IATA. Domestic traffic in February was 21.8% below the volumes of February 2019.

International RPKs rose 256.8% versus February 2021, improved from a 165.5% year-over-year increase in January 2022 versus the year-earlier period. All regions improved their performance compared to the prior month. February 2022 international RPKs were down 59.6% compared to the same month in 2019.

"The recovery in air travel is gathering steam as governments in many parts of the world lift travel restrictions. States that persist in attempting to lock-out the disease, rather than managing it, as we do with other diseases, risk missing out on the enormous economic and societal benefits that a restoration of international connectivity will bring," said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

The accelerated growth recorded in February 2022 compared to a year ago, is helping passenger demand catch-up to 2019 levels. Total RPKs in February were down 45.5% compared to February 2019, well ahead of the 49.6% decline recorded in January versus the same month in 2019. The domestic recovery continues to outpace that of international markets.

"As the long-awaited recovery in air travel accelerates, it is important that our infrastructure providers are prepared for a huge increase in passenger numbers in the coming months. The peak Northern summer travel season will be critical for jobs throughout the travel and tourism value chain. Now is the time to prepare. Governments can help by ensuring that border positions are staffed adequately and that background security checks for new staff are managed as efficiently as possible," said Walsh.

Middle Eastern airlines’ traffic rose 215.3% in February compared to February 2021, well up compared to the 145.0% increase in January 2022, versus the same month in 2021. February capacity rose 89.5% versus the year-ago period, and load factor climbed 25.8 percentage points to 64.7%.