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News Article

Flight Demand Sinks in March

By Alicia Arizpe | Wed, 04/29/2020 - 10:43

The fast spread of COVID-19 led potential travelers to shelter in place and governments to restrict non-essential travel, placing a direct hit to the aviation industry that led to cancelled flights and grounded fleets. IATA tracked the impact of these measures on the industry and reported demand measured in total revenue passenger kilometers (RPK), which are the number of paying passengers multiplied by the distance they traveled, fell by 52.9 percent in March when compared to the same month in 2019. “March was a disastrous month for aviation. Airlines progressively felt the growing impact of the COVID-19-related border closings and restrictions on mobility, including in domestic markets,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA.

While RPKs fell consistently across the globe, the Asia-Pacific region suffered the heaviest blow, falling by 59.9 percent. This is a significant hit for the global aviation industry as the region represents one third of the entire market. The second largest fall was Europe, which fell by 51.8 percent, followed by North America, which was down by 49.8 percent. The impact in Latin America was smaller, representing a drop of only 39.3 percent, as the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak reached the region later than in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. 

While it arrived later to the country, COVID-19 also hit Mexican airlines. Aeroméxico informed that its demand fell sharply during the last two weeks of March due to the pandemic and border closings leading to a 43.4 percent drop in RPK in comparison to that month in 2019. This drop was among the reasons that led Mexico’s flagship airline to report a 14 percent drop in revenue 1Q20, according to its financial report.

A major concern is that the full effects of the pandemic are still to be determined. “Worse, we know that the situation deteriorated even more in April and most signs point to a slow recovery,” said de Juniac. IATA, which represents 290 airlines, reiterated its call for governmental support in the form of tax breaks and loans, among other solutions, to help airlines survive through this crisis. “The industry is in free fall and we have not hit bottom. But there will come a time — soon, I hope — when authorities will be ready to begin easing restrictions on mobility and opening borders,” said de Juniac.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer