MONTREAL — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) data indicates demand for air services is beginning to recover after hitting bottom in April.
Passenger demand in April (measured in revenue passenger kilometers/RPKs), plunged 94.3 per cent year over year, as the COVID-19-related travel restrictions virtually shut down domestic and international air travel. This is a rate of decline never seen in the history of IATA’s traffic series, which dates back to 1990.
More recently, figures show daily flight totals rose 30 per cent between the low point on April 21 and May 27. This is primarily in domestic operations and off of a very low base (5.7 per cent of 2019 demand). While this uptick is not significant to the global dimension of the air-transport industry, it does suggest the industry has seen the bottom of the crisis, provided there is no recurrence. It is also the very first signal of aviation beginning the likely long process of re-establishing connectivity.
“April was a disaster for aviation, as air travel almost entirely stopped. But, April may also represent the nadir of the crisis. Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions. And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets, such as China, Germany and the U.S. These are positive signs as we start to rebuild the industry from a stand-still. The initial green shoots will take time — possibly years — to mature,” says Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO, IATA.
IATA calculated that, by the first week of April, governments in 75 per cent of the markets it tracks completely banned entry, while an additional 19 per cent had limited travel restrictions or compulsory-quarantine requirements for international arrivals. The initial flight increases have been concentrated in domestic markets.
Data from late-May shows flight levels in Republic of Korea, China and Vietnam have risen to a point now just 22- to 28-per-cent lower than a year earlier. Searches for air travel on Google were also up 25 per cent by the end of May, compared to the April low, however, that’s still 60-per-cent lower than at the start of the year.
North American carriers had a 98.3-per-cent traffic decline in April, widened from a 54.7-per-cent decline in March. Capacity fell 94.4 per cent and load-factor dropped 57.2 percentage points to 25.7 per cent.
The complete April 2020 Air Passenger Market Analysis is available at iata.org.