GENEVA — Global passenger demand in February fell 14.1% compared to February 2019, an unsurprising outcome given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
This represents the steepest decline in traffic since 9/11 and reflected collapsing domestic travel in China and sharply falling international demand to/from and within the Asia-Pacific region due to government-imposed travel restrictions in response to the pandemic.
February capacity fell 8.7% as airlines around the world scrambled to trim capacity in line with plunging traffic, while load factor fell 4.8 percentage points to 75.9%.
“Airlines were hit by a sledgehammer called COVID-19 in February. Borders were closed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. And the impact on aviation has left airlines with little to do except cut costs and take emergency measures in an attempt to survive in these extraordinary circumstances,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Without a doubt this is the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced.”
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.
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%.
“This is aviation’s darkest hour and it is difficult to see a sunrise ahead unless governments do more to support the industry through this unprecedented global crisis,” adds de Juniac. “We are grateful to those that have stepped up with relief measures, but many more need to do so. Air transport will play a much-needed role in supporting the inevitable recovery. But without additional government action today, the industry will not be in a position to help when skies are brighter tomorrow.”
The Director General says that IATA welcomes the actions of regulators who have relaxed rules so as to permit airlines to issue travel vouchers in lieu of refunds for unused tickets.