IATA reports major dip in January passenger demand

GENEVA — Global passenger traffic took a big hit in January due to the coronavirus, reports IATA.

According to its January 2020 report, demand climbed 2.4% compared to January 2019, which was down from 4.6% year-over-year growth for the prior month. This marks 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, meanwhile, increased by 1.7%, while load factor climbed 0.6 percentage point to 80.3%.

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%.

“January was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the traffic impacts we are seeing owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, given that major travel restrictions in China did not begin until Jan. 23. 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.

The CEO went on to note that the COVID-19 outbreak is a “global crisis” that is testing the resilience of both the airline industry and the global economy.

“Airlines are experiencing double-digit declines in demand, and on many routes traffic has collapsed,” he said. “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.”

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