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Airlines facing a long haul despite a "surge in bookings"

There were mixed messages in April’s air traffic data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The industry body has returned to year-on-year traffic comparisons, unless otherwise noted. Whether this denotes that industry expectations for a near-term recovery have improved is unclear, but it should help determine the strength of the rebound as the virus loosens its grip.

In the previous monthly update, the IATA said that it expected that overall traveller numbers would reach 4bn in 2024 (counting multi-sector connecting trips as one passenger), thereby exceeding pre-pandemic volumes by three percentage points. That remains someway off in the distance, although any investors with exposure to the sector will be gratified by the latest headline figures, caveats notwithstanding.

Global passenger volume increased by 78.7 per cent year on year through April, although it still trails the pre-pandemic rate by 37 per cent. More pointedly, capacity remains well adrift of the 2019 rate, so the corresponding recovery in the load factor needs to put in context. The percentage of available seating filled by passengers is nudging the pre-crisis winter-season rate, although the effective size of the capacity is still significantly smaller than they were in 2019.

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