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14 December 2021

Against All Odds

19 and 94% - they are two key figures to remember as 2021 comes to a close.

  • 19 months of crisis – this pandemic is the longest shock our industry has faced in the postwar era, and it’s still going on. Unfortunately, every month that passes marks a new record.
  • 94% RPK cut – never have we seen a collapse in passenger traffic this swift and deep. We hit rock bottom near the beginning of the crisis, in April 2020, then started a very slow recovery as the months passed by, reaching a still appalling ~49% RPK cut in October 2021 (compared to 2019 levels).

While air cargo has played a major role in keeping the industry afloat, the entire passenger value chain has been deeply hurt by the crisis and government decisions to restrict traffic that are crippling our business, the business of freedom. Airlines, travel agents, system providers, ground handlers, airports, and many other industry actors are all ready to work. Passengers are ready to book and get on an airplane, for leisure or business travel, as soon as the decision-making authorities enable the world to do so.

But the light is indeed at the end of the tunnel, and IATA is playing a major role in bringing us closer to this light as quickly as possible. One positive and unforeseen consequence of this crisis is the acceleration of the will to digitally transform the industry, one of the important areas being airline retailing. This has become a critical need and customer centricity has been largely pledged at the last Digital, Data and Retailing Symposium, where the concept of moving to 100% Offers & Orders was agreed as one of the key enablers for a truly customer-focused digital experience, that moves us away from a process-driven industry, to an industry that focuses on the needs and desires of the customer first and foremost .

So, indeed against all odds, we are motivated to push further and faster than ever to serve the industry with our best resources, for its best interests, and to help it to emerge more robust and sustainable.

As we look toward these goals in the new year, it is now time to re-charge our batteries and I wish you all a restful end-of-year break with your loved ones.

Muhammad Albakri
SVP, Financial Settlement and Distribution Services
IATA

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