Hopes of an upturn in air transport shattered by the summer

Par thierno - 2 September, 2020 - 18:09

According to the International Air Transport Association's summer pre-balance sheet, traffic did not recover to the level expected this summer. And the gap between supply and demand is widening...

Even if the season isn't over yet, we have to face the facts: the summer has not brought the strong recovery so long awaited by air transport. In spite of the very voluntarist attitude of many airline companies such as Air France and KLM, who did not hesitate to reopen up to 80 % of their network betting on the resumption of travel, the pre-balance sheet drawn up this Tuesday by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is more than disappointing.

According to IATA, world air traffic in July, expressed in passenger-kilometres, was still 79.8% lower than last year.

The international sector struggles

This is certainly better than the low point of 94.1% reached in April, but it is far from the expectations of the companies, especially European ones, which have already put nearly half of their capacities back on the market. "I was hoping to be able to talk to you about a strong recovery this summer, but it is far from being the case," acknowledged IATA director Alexandre de Juniac during a telephone press briefing.

While domestic traffic has regained some of the ground lost, returning on average to more than 40% of its pre-crisis level, international traffic has hardly taken off again and remains 91.9% down.

The reopening of borders within the Schenghen area at the beginning of June enabled intra-European traffic to regain some colour, unlike traffic with North America and Asia, which is still virtually nil. However, intra-European traffic was still 79.2% lower than in July 2019.

Growing gap between supply and demand

And judging by the growing gap between the increase in the supply of airline seats and the growth in passenger traffic, the situation of the airlines will not improve in September.

"The gap between supply and demand is widening, which means that airlines are still burning cash," says David Pearce, IATA's economic studies officer.

"Borders have remained closed and health policies are so fluid that people no longer fly," explained Alexandre de Juniac.

The IATA director calls on governments to better coordinate their efforts to reopen borders, in accordance with international health protocol, but avoiding certain devastating unilateral measures for air transport, such as quarantine.

However, Alexandre de Juniac also considers it necessary to extend support measures, such as freezing European regulations on the use of airport slots.

But also new financial support measures "which would not increase the indebtedness of the companies", he said. "Airlines still need a lifeline", he stressed.

Bruno Trévidic