Wednesday, December 8

A disastrous March for aviation as passenger demand plunges – IATA


March international passenger demand shrank 55.8 percent compared with March 2019. Bernama File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called the month of March as disastrous for the aviation industry as demand, which is measured in total revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), dived 52.9 per cent compared to the year-ago period.

This was the largest decline in recent history, reflecting the impact of government actions to slow the spread of COVID-19, said IATA, which represents 290 airlines, comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic.

In seasonally adjusted terms, global passenger volumes returned to levels last seen in 2006.

March capacity (available seat kilometres (ASKs) fell by 36.2 per cent and load factor plummeted 21.4 percentage points to 60.6 per cent, it said in a statement here, today.

“March was a disastrous month for aviation. Airlines progressively felt the growing impact of the COVID-19-related border closings and restrictions on mobility, including in domestic markets.

“Demand was at the same level it was in 2006 but we have the fleets and employees for double that. Worse, we know that the situation deteriorated even more in April and most signs point to a slow recovery,” IATA director-general and chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac said.

March international passenger demand shrank 55.8 percent compared with March 2019.

That is much worse than the 10.3 per cent year-to-year decline in February. All regions recorded double-digit percentage traffic declines. Capacity tumbled 42.8 per cent, and load factor plunged 18.4 percentage points to 62.5 per cent, said IATA.

“Asia-Pacific airlines led the decliners, as March traffic dropped 65.5 per cent compared to the year-ago period, which was more than double the 30.7 per cent decline in February. Capacity fell 51.4 per cent and load factor collapsed 23.4 percentage points to 57.1 per cent,” it said.

Demand for domestic travel shrank 47.8 per cent in March compared to March 2019 with double-digit percentage declines in all markets. This compared to a 21.3 per cent year-to-year decline in February. Capacity fell 24.5 per cent and load factor plunged 26.0 percentage points to 58.1 per cent.

IATA said Chinese airlines continued to see the steepest declines, with domestic demand down 65.5 per cent in March compared to March 2019. This, however, was an improvement over the 85 per cent year-to-year decline in February as the country began to re-open domestic air travel.

Japan’s airlines recorded a 55.8 per cent year-over-year decline in domestic RPKs, despite not implementing any widespread lockdown.

“The industry is in free fall and we have not hit bottom (yet). But there will come a time — soon, I hope –when authorities will be ready to begin easing restrictions on mobility and opening borders. It is imperative that governments work with the industry now to prepare for that day,” de Juniac said.

He said it is the only way to ensure that the aviation industry has measures in place to keep passengers safe during travel and reassure governments that aviation will not be a vector in the spread of the disease.

“We must also avoid the confusion and complexity that followed 9.11. Global standards that are mutually accepted and operationally practicable will be mission-critical to achieving this. The only way to get there is by working together,” he opined. – Bernama