IATA's global passenger traffic data for January
2020 shows that demand, when measured in total revenue passenger
kilometers (RPK), climbed 2.4% compared to January 2019.
This is down from 4.6% year-on-year growth for the
prior month and is the lowest monthly increase since April 2010,
at the time of the volcanic ash cloud crisis in Europe that led to
massive airspace closures and flight cancellations.
January capacity, measure by available seat kilometers
(ASK), increased by 1.7%. Load factor climbed 0.6 percentage
point to 80.3%.
“January was just the tip of the
iceberg in terms of the traffic impacts we are seeing owing to the
COVID19 outbreak, given that major travel restrictions in China
did not begin until 23 January. Nevertheless, it was still enough
to cause our slowest traffic growth in nearly a decade,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
January international passenger demand rose
2.5% compared to January 2019, down from 3.7% growth the previous
month. With the exception of Latin America, all regions recorded
increases, led by airlines in Africa and the Middle East that saw minimal impact from the COVID19 outbreak in January. Capacity
climbed 0.9%, and load factor rose 1.2 percentage points to 81.1%.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ January traffic climbed 2.5%
compared to the year-ago period, which was the slowest outcome
since early 2013 and a decline from the 3.9% increase in December.
Softer GDP growth in several of the region’s key economies was
compounded by COVID19 impacts on the international China market.
Capacity rose 3.0% and load factor slid 0.4 percentage point to
European carriers saw January demand climb
just 1.6% year-to-year, down from 2.7% in December. Results were
impacted by slumping GDP growth in leading economies during the
2019 fourth quarter plus flight cancellations related to COVID19
in late January. Capacity fell 1.0%, and load factor lifted 2.1
percentage points to 82.7%.
Middle Eastern airlines
posted a 5.4% traffic increase in January, the fourth consecutive
month of solid demand growth, reflecting strong performance from
larger Europe-Middle East and Middle East-Asia routes, which were
not significantly impacted by route cancellations related to
COVID19 at that time. Capacity increased just 0.5%, with load
factor jumping 3.6 percentage points to 78.3%.
North American carriers’ international demand rose 2.9% compared
to January a year ago, which represented a slowdown from the 5.2%
growth recorded in December, although there were no significant
flight cancellations to Asia in January. Capacity climbed 1.6%,
and load factor grew by 1.0 percentage point to 81.7%.
Latin American airlines experienced a 3.7% demand drop in
January compared to the same month last year, which was a further
deterioration compared to a 1.3% decline in December. Traffic for
Latin American carriers has now been particularly weak for four
consecutive months, reflecting continued social unrest and
economic difficulties in a number of countries in the region
unrelated to COVID19. Capacity fell 4.0% and load factor edged up
0.2 percentage point to 82.7%.
traffic climbed 5.3% in January, up slightly from 5.1% growth in
December. Capacity rose 5.7%, however, and load factor slipped 0.3
percentage point to 70.5%.
Demand for domestic travel climbed 2.3% in January
compared to January 2019, as strong growth in the US helped
mitigate the impact from a steep decline in China’s domestic
traffic. Capacity rose 3.0% and load factor dipped 0.5 percentage
point to 78.9%.
airlines’ domestic traffic fell 6.8% in January, reflecting the
impact of flight cancellations and travel restrictions related to
COVID19. China’s Ministry of Transport reported an 80% annual
fall in volumes in late January and early February. Capacity
slipped 0.2% and passenger load factor plunged 5.4 percentage
points to 76.7%.
US airlines saw domestic traffic
climb 7.5% in January. Although this was down from 10.1% growth in
December, it represented another strong month of demand growth
reflecting supportive business confidence and domestic economic
outcomes at the time. Capacity rose 4.9% and load factor climbed
1.9 percentage points to 81.1%.
“The COVID19 outbreak is a global crisis that is testing the
resilience not only of the airline industry but of the global
economy. Airlines are experiencing double-digit declines in
demand, and on many routes traffic has collapsed. Aircraft are
being parked and employees are being asked to take unpaid leave.
In this emergency, governments need to consider the maintenance of
air transport links in their response.
Suspension of the 80/20
slot use rule, and relief on airport fees at airports where demand
has disappeared are two important steps that can help ensure that
airlines are positioned to provide support during the crisis and
eventually in the recovery,” said de Juniac.