The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has downgraded its traffic forecast for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery as evidenced by a dismal end to the summer travel season in the northern hemisphere.
IATA now expects full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66 per cent compared to 2019. The previous estimate was for a 63 per cent decline.August passenger demand continued to be hugely depressed against normal levels with revenue passenger kilometres down 75.3 per cent compared to August 2019. This was only slightly improved compared to the 79.5 per cent annual contraction in July.
Domestic markets continued to outperform international markets in terms of recovery although most remained substantially down on a year ago. August capacity based on available seat kilometres was down 63.8 per cent compared to a year ago and load factor plunged 27.2 points to an all-time low for August of 58.5 per cent.
Based on flight data, the recovery in air passenger services was brought to a halt in mid-August by a return of government restrictions in the face of new COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of key markets. "Forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter show that the recovery since the April low point will continue to falter," said IATA in a statement.
Whereas the decline in year-on-year growth of global revenue passenger kilometres was expected to have moderated to minus 55 per cent by December, a much slower improvement is now expected with the month of December forecast to be down 68 per cent on a year ago.
Asia Pacific airlines' August traffic sank 95.9 per cent compared to the year-ago period, barely budged from a 96.2 per cent drop in July, and the steepest contraction among regions. Capacity dived 90.4 per cent and load factor shrank 48 percentage points to 34.8 per cent.
"August's disastrous traffic performance puts a cap on the industry's worst-ever summer season. International demand recovery is virtually non-existent and domestic markets in Australia and Japan actually regressed in the face of new outbreaks and travel restrictions," said IATA's Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.
"A few months ago, we thought that a full-year fall in demand of minus 63 per cent compared to 2019 was as bad as it could get. With the dismal peak summer travel period behind us, we have revised our expectations downward to minus 66 per cent," he said.
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