The COVID-19 pandemic sledgehammered Asia Pacific airlines the most as passenger demand plunged 41% at the start of travel restrictions last February, according to the latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) data.
Globally, demand (measured in total revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) fell 14.1% compared to the same period last year, the steepest decline in traffic since the 9-11 terror attack in New York.
The airlines’ February, 2020 capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) fell 8.7% as they scrambled to trim capacity in line with plunging traffic. Load factor fell 4.8 percentage points to 75.9%.
“The 14.1% global fall in demand is severe, but for carriers in Asia-Pacific the drop was 41%. And it has only grown worse. Without a doubt this is the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced,” reported Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
February international passenger demand fell 10.1% compared to February 2019, the worst outcome since the 2003 SARS outbreak and a reversal from the 2.6% traffic increase recorded in January.
Europe and Middle East were the only regions to see a year-over-year traffic rise.
Capacity fell 5.0%, and load factor plunged 4.2 percentage points to 75.3%.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ February traffic plummeted 30.4% compared to the year-ago period, steeply reversing a 3.0% gain posted in January.
Capacity fell 16.9% and load factor collapsed to 67.9%, a 13.2- percentage point drop compared to February 2019.
Middle East carriers posted a 1.6% traffic increase in February, a slowdown from the 5.3% year-over-year growth reported in January largely owing to a slowdown on Middle East -Asia-Pacific routes.
Capacity increased by 1.3%, and load factor edged up 0.2 percentage point to 72.6%.
North American carriers had a 2.8% traffic decline in February, reversing a 2.9% gain in January, as international entry restrictions hit home and volumes on Asia – North America routes plunged 30%. Capacity fell 1.5%, and load factor dropped 1.0 percentage point to 77.7%.
Latin American airlines experienced a 0.4% demand drop in February compared to the same month last year. This was an improvement over the 3.5% decline recorded in January.
The spread of the virus and resulting travel restrictions will be reflected in March results. Capacity also fell 0.4% and load factor was flat compared to February 2019 at 81.3%.