Global passenger demand recovers slightly after recording biggest monthly decline in April

Demand dropped 94.3 per cent year-on-year as lockdown measures sapped appetite for travel

FILE PHOTO: Planes of German airline Lufthansa are parked at the Berlin Schoenefeld airport amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Schoenefeld, Germany, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
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Passenger demand for air travel saw the biggest monthly decline on record in April as governments across the world implemented lockdown measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, but there are already signs that demand for flights is recovering, the International Air Transport Association said.

Demand measured in revenue passenger kilometres dropped 94.3 per cent year on year in April, which is the biggest monthly fall since the organisation's traffic series data began in 1990. However, it said that more recently daily flight totals have risen by 30 per cent since the low point on April 27 and May 27.

“For aviation, April was our cruellest month. Governments had to take drastic action to slow the pandemic. But that has come with the economic cost of a traumatic global recession," Iata's director-general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said. "Airlines will be key to the economic recovery."

International passenger demand dropped 98.4 per cent in April and capacity dropped by 95.1 per cent as governments moved to close borders, which led to airlines grounding flights. On flights that operated, load factor – a measure of passenger occupancy – fell 55.3 per cent to just 27.5 per cent.

Global airlines are expected to lose $314 billion (Dh1.15 trillion) in passenger revenue this year, a 55 per cent drop from 2019 due to the pandemic, Iata said in April.

Some have already declared bankruptcy, while others have secured large bailout packages as carriers across the world shed jobs and shelve new plane orders in a bid to reduce costs.

Passenger traffic figures plunged globally in April, with 75 per cent of countries at the start of the month completely banning entry and a further 19 per cent placing travel restrictions or quarantining measures on new arrivals. As a result, international passenger traffic numbers fell around the world – down 99 per cent in Europe, 98.7 per cent in Africa, 98.3 per cent in North and Latin America, 98 per cent in Asia-Pacific and 97.3 per cent in the Middle East.

Domestic flight demand dropped 86.9 per cent globally, with China showing signs of a recovery. Although domestic passenger demand was 66.6 per cent lower year-on-year, this was an improvement on the 68.7 per cent decline in March and 85 per cent fall in February.

In terms of the outlook, April "may also represent the nadir of the crisis", Mr de Juniac said.

"Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions. And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets such as China, Germany, and the US. These are positive signs as we start to rebuild the industry from a standstill. The initial green shoots will take time—possibly years—to mature,” he said.