The global recovery in travel has stalled and air traffic in Europe has dropped after leading the international restart this summer, according to latest Iata figures.

Iata reported growth “levelled off” in August after recovering to a worldwide level 75% down on last year compared with 96% down in April.

But international air traffic remained 88% down on August 2019 with the average load factor on international flights below 50%.

Iata chief economist Brian Pearce noted: “That is way below what is needed for airlines to break even.”

Pearce said the latest flight data “shows clearly the improvement in August more or less stopped early in the month.

“Europe, the one international market that showed improvement, hit a decline in September.”

Pearce reported domestic air traffic globally had “also not improved in the last six weeks” amid “huge volatility”. Australia was “more or less grounded” and the US and Japan had “clearly suffered second waves of Covid”.

However, Russia’s domestic market has “fully recovered” and China’s “continues to improve to 19% below where it was last year”.

Pearce said a second wave of Covid had done severe damage and “was clearly affecting confidence” among consumers alongside government travel restrictions.

An Iata air passenger survey in September found 45% of respondents would wait one to two months before taking a flight while the remainder would “wait six months or more before boarding a flight, if at all”.

Pearce said: “Consumer confidence remains extremely low and that is the key driver for leisure travel. We fear the revival in travel will be relatively weak until we see a recovery in confidence.”

Iata bookings data shows an increasing decline year on year through the remaining months of the year.

Pearce said: “The situation has deteriorated. We’re less optimistic about the growth in air travel for the remainder of this year. In July, we thought we would get to 55% down year on year in November. Now we forecast traffic to be 68% down by December

“The winter months are going to be pretty challenging for airlines.”

Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “The outlook has got darker. The industry is heading into the low season in the worst financial position in its history.

“This is no time for governments to walk away. For the good of aviation and the economy we need to reopen borders.”

De Juniac reported Iata had received “no official response” to its call last week for a rapid move to “100% testing of all air passengers”.

He said: ““We don’t underestimate the challenges.” [But] we are discussing the first pilot with some governments. We target the end of November – that is the timescale. We believe the testing industry will be ready.”