Driven by recovery in some domestic markets, most notably China,
passenger demand in May (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or
RPKs), which dropped 91.3% from May 2019, shows a mild uptick from the
94% annual decline recorded in April 2020, according to data from The
International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“May was not quite as terrible as April. That’s about the best thing
that can be said. As predicted, the first improvements in passenger
demand are occurring in domestic markets. International traffic remained
virtually stopped in May," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director
general and CEO.
"We are only at the very beginning of a long and difficult recovery.
And there is tremendous uncertainty about what impact a resurgence of
new Covid-19 cases in key markets could have,” he added.
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
Asia-Pacific airlines’ May traffic plunged 98% 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%.
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%.
In other regions, Middle Eastern airlines posted a 98.0% traffic
contraction for May, compared with a 97.3% demand drop in April. North
American carriers had a 98.2% traffic decline in May, little changed
from a 98.4% decline in April.
Meanwhile, IATA recorded a 79.2% drop in domestic traffic, which 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 following the recent outbreak
of new infections in the city.
US airlines’ domestic traffic was down 89.5% in May, an improvement
over the 95.6% decline experienced in April. However, the recent rise in
infection rates in key US states following the lifting of lockdown
restrictions could negatively impact the budding recovery.
“We appear to be in the very early stages of a recovery in air
travel. But the situation is fragile," said Mr de Juniac, urging
governments to swiftly implement the International Civil Aviation
Organization’s global guidelines for restoring air connectivity.
“Governments also need to avoid adding blockers to the recovery, such
as implementing entry quarantines. They have the same impact as
outright travel bans and will keep economies closed down to the benefits
of aviation connectivity. Governments should also avoid new fees and
charges to cover the cost of Covid-19 related health measures (such as
testing and contact tracing), which will make travel less accessible,"
"It is critical that governments don’t stall the fragile recovery by
introducing new regulatory or cost barriers to travel,” stressed Mr de