March 2020 IATA Air Passenger Market Analysis
Published April 29, 2020. IATA Economic Reports.

Air passenger demand and capacity evaporate amid COVID-19


Highlights

  • Industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) fell by a massive 52.9% year-on-year in March, the largest decline in recent history. In seasonally-adjusted terms global passenger volumes returned to levels last seen in 2006.
  • March was marked by the rapid advance of COVID-19 across the world, with subsequent widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions. No market was untouched, although a tentative re-start emerged in the domestic China market.
  • Available seat kilometres (ASKs) contracted by 36.2% year-on-year in March, which resulted in the global load factor declining by 21.4 ppts to 60.6%.

Africa and International demand plummets as borders close
For airlines in Africa, international RPKs contracted by 42.8% in annual terms in March. Unsurprisingly, Africa/Asia was the worst performing market for the region, with volumes down around 65% year-on-year as the flow of investment and business from China came to an abrupt halt.


Passenger demand falls at an unprecedented rate

As anticipated, and building on the initial decline observed in February, industry-wide revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) fell sharply in March, to be 52.9% below their level of a year ago. Prior to this, the largest year-on-year falls since our data began in 1990 came in the aftermath of 9/11 where RPKs fell by 19%yoy in Oct 2001 and by 16% in Nov. Seasonally adjusted RPKs followed a similar path, falling sharply by around 45% month-on-month and sending passenger volumes to a 14-year low.

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