After giving some thought to our last post on Air Travel. we constructed our own chart with the data, which is pretty damn interesting, informative, and depressing. We have also added the Bloomberg chart on the collapse of international travel in July.
Theses two charts illustrate how the air travel industry has been decimated by the COVID crisis.
96 Percent Year-on-Year Decline In Passenger Count On April 16
On March 1, 2020, for example, the TSA screened about as many passengers and crew members as the same weekday in 2019. Air travel then soon collapsed as fear of the coronavirus gripped the nation, and within 46 days, on April 16, passenger screenings reached its nadir of only 3.6 percent of the 2019 level, or down a stunning 96 percent. April 16 also marked the bottom in the 7-day moving average of screenings at 4.0 percent of the 2019 levels.
Air travel has since rebounded along with the economy but the passenger count still remains about 70 percent below 2019 levels, and seems to have hit a plateau at around 30-40 percent, which is also our sense of the same dynamic of the overall economy is experiencing right now — a very strong bounce in the first two months of Q3 and now moving into a holding pattern.
Real-Time Economic Indicator & COVID Fear Gauge
Thus we now perceive and will use the passenger count data not only as a real-time indicator – using the first derivative or rate of change – of the direction of the economy but also a fear gauge of how the fear of COVID affects consumers’ choices. As the fear of the pandemic subsides air travel should pick up markedly.
Of course, the overall economy has not been hit as hard as the air travel industry and its rebound has been much sharper.
We do believe there will be big structural changes in air travel, especially as companies realize they can cut expenses by replacing zoom meetings for nonessential business travel. It’s too early to judge the magnitude, however, but we suspect it will be significant.
IAG SA, owner of British Airways and Iberia, said in July that leisure demand will recover before corporate travel, and this “structural change” in the market will lead to new cabin layouts. On a conference call, IAG Chief Financial Officer Stephen Gunning said British Airways retired its Boeing Co. 747s early partly because they had so many premium seats.
Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Paul Scurrah said at a conference this month that business travel would rebound slower than the overall market as some companies maintain work-from-home policies. Qantas Airways Ltd. CEO Alan Joyce was optimistic that demand would fully recover, but not until 2023 or 2024. – Bloomberg
Big Post-COVID Spike On Pent-Up Demand
We also expect a massive spike in travel for several months after COVID passes as enormous pent-up demand to hit the sky is unleashed.
Watch this [air]space.