There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not we've "hit bottom" in terms of air travel demand, and now that March numbers are out, I really hope so. The airlines can't handle much worse than this. IATA's estimates for March show premium traffic down 19.2 percent with revenues down 35 to 40 percent. Sheesh.
The 19.2 percent drop was better than February's 21.1 percent drop, but February was exaggerated thanks to one extra day in the month last year. For the March comparison, this year didn't have Easter during the month and that's bad news. For overall travel, Easter brings more travel, but that's not the case for premium travel. Easter means that there are fewer business trips going on. So, this March should have had more working days available for business than last year. And yet the numbers were still this bad. Adjusting for that change, premium traffic actually dropped around 25 percent.
If you're in the US or Europe, you can take comfort in the fact that you aren't in Asia. Premium travel was the worst in Asia by far. Traffic from there to North America was down 29.3 percent, to Europe was down 20.1 percent, and within Asia was down 29.2 percent.
On the other hand, premium traffic over the North Atlantic was down "merely" 16.8 percent and within North America a "paltry" 12.9 percent. It's sad when those numbers start to look good.
The news wasn't all bad as numbers in the back of the bus held up much better than up front. But we know that a disproportionate share of profits come from the pointy end of the airplane, so that's not a great deal of consolation.