Iata has just announced the global passenger traffic results for March 2020, showing that demand (measured in total passenger revenue per kilometer – RPKs) has plummeted 52.9% compared to the previous year. This was the biggest decline in recent history, reflecting the impact of government actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In seasonally adjusted terms, the global passenger volume returned to the levels last seen in 2006. March capacity (seats per kilometer – ASKs) fell by 36.2% and the load factor plunged by 21.4 percentage points, reaching 60, 6%.
“March was a disastrous month for aviation. Airlines have progressively felt the growing impact of coronavirus-related border closures and mobility restrictions, including in domestic markets. Demand was at the same level as 2006, but we have fleets and employees to double that. We also know that the situation deteriorated further in April and most signs indicate a slow recovery, ”says the association’s general director and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.
International passenger demand in March shrank 55.8% compared to March 2019. Which is much worse than the 10.3% drop year-over-year in February. All regions recorded a percentage decline in double-digit traffic. Capacity dropped by 42.8% and the load factor dropped by 18.4 percentage points to 62.5%.
US airline traffic fell 53.7% compared to March last year, worsening dramatically from a 2.9% drop in February compared to February 2019. Capacity fell 38.1% and the cargo fell 21.1 percentage points, reaching 62.8%.
Latin American companies experienced a 45.9% drop in demand in March, compared to the same month last year. In February, traffic decreased by 0.2% year on year. Capacity dropped 33.5% and the load factor fell 15.3 percentage points, reaching 66.5%.
European carriers saw demand in March drop 54.3% year on year. In February, traffic was practically stable compared to the month of the previous year. Capacity dropped 42.9% and the load factor decreased 16.8 percentage points, reaching 67.6%, the highest among regions.
Demand for domestic travel shrank 47.8% in March, compared to March 2019, with a double-digit percentage drop in all markets. This compared to an annual decline of 21.3% in February. Capacity dropped 24.5% and the load factor decreased by 26 percentage points to 58.1%.
“The sector is in free fall and we have not reached the bottom. But there will come a time when the authorities will be ready to start easing mobility restrictions and opening borders. It is imperative that governments work with industry now to prepare for that day. Global standards that are mutually accepted and operationally feasible will be essential to achieve this. The only way to get there is to work together ”, he concludes.