The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger demand in May (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs), dropped 91.3% compared to May 2019. This was a mild uptick from the 94% annual decline recorded in April 2020. The improvement was driven by recovery in some domestic markets, most notably China.
International Passenger Markets
May international passenger demand fell 98.3% compared to May 2019, which was virtually unchanged from the 98.4% decline recorded in April. Capacity plummeted 95.3%, and load factor sank 51.9 percentage points to 28.6% meaning a bit more than a quarter of seats were filled, on average.
European carriers’ May demand contracted 98.7% compared to last year, virtually unchanged from a 98.9% drop in April, year-over-year, and the worst decline among regions. Capacity dropped 97.5% and load factor fell by 41.7 percentage points to 42.4%.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ May traffic plunged 98.0% compared to the year-ago period, also in line with a 98.2% recorded in April. Capacity fell 95.1% and load factor shrank 46.6 percentage points to 32.1%.
North American carriers had a 98.2% traffic decline in May, little changed from a 98.4% decline in April. Capacity fell 94.5%, and load factor dropped 56.7 percentage points to 27.2%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Domestic traffic fell 79.2% in May. This was an improvement compared to an 86.2% decline in April. Domestic capacity fell 69.2% and load factor dropped 27.2 percentage points to 56.9%.
China’s carriers posted a 49.9% year-on-year decline in traffic in May, significantly improved from the 64.6% demand drop recorded in April. However, the improvement has been more recently interrupted by flight cancellations to and from Beijing amid an increase in the number of new infections in the city.
The Bottom Line
“We appear to be in the very early stages of a recovery in air travel. But the situation is fragile. We need governments to support and strengthen the restart by quickly implementing the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) global guidelines for restoring air connectivity contained in ICAO’s Takeoff: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis.
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