Preliminary IATA traffic figures for April 2003 show an 18.5% drop in global passenger traffic over April 2002, with SARS-hit Asia Pacific carriers experiencing a 44.8% drop. "The unprecedented combination of crises—the War in Iraq and the SARS—has had a disastrous impact on the international air transport industry in an order of magnitude approaching that of September 11," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

With carriers reacting to the current crises, overall capacity (expressed as ASKs) was down for the first time this year, –6.23% on the equivalent period last year with the load factor being 63.5%. Overall RPKs for the first four months of the year fell by –2.9%, with ASKs up 4.2%. (See tables below)

The most serious fall in passenger traffic was experienced by the Asia-Pacific carriers, as the SARS crisis deepened. RPKs for the region's carriers fell by an unprecedented 44.8%. With ASKs falling by 12.6%, the average load factor was only 48.0%, a fall of 28 points over April 2002.

North American carriers have also been badly affected, seeing RPKs fall by –23.5%. European carriers conversely have fared much better, seeing overall passenger traffic fall by –4.8%.

In the Freight market, overall traffic rose by 7.7% in April, continuing the healthy trend seen this year. The key Asia-Pacific markets saw freight (expressed as FTKs) grow by 10.6%, offering one bright spot in the current crisis. In contrast North American carriers suffered a –11.2% fall in freight traffic. FTKs for the first four months of the year have witnessed a 10.5% growth overall.

"These are dark days for our industry. The industry's immediate tasks are to rebuild passenger confidence in air transport and reduce costs. Safety is the key concern of travellers. Since WHO-recommended screening procedures have been implemented at airports in late March, not a single case of onboard transmission of SARS has been reported. Several countries have controlled SARS and been removed from the WHO lists. We must cut through the hysteria so that travellers can make informed decisions based on facts. Since April over 150 million people have travelled on aircraft and not a single case of inflight transmission has been reported. This is a fact that travellers need to know," said Bisignani.

"On the other hand, airlines are working hard to contain or reduce their costs. Reducing frequency, compulsory uncompensated leave and redundancies are among the emergency measures being put in place. In these difficult times, airlines are looking to their suppliers and partners to join these efforts. Many airports, particularly in Asia, have responded with charges relief in response to the industry's crisis. Today's figures clearly indicate the prudence of their decisions. I hope that Hong Kong (at the epicentre of the SARS outbreak) and Tokyo/Narita (the world's most expensive airport) take careful note of their isolation in not providing meaningful support to the industry," said Bisignani.

IATA will host leaders of the world's aviation industry in Washington for The World Air Transport Summit June 1-3. The keynote session "The Airline Business in Crisis—An Agenda for Recovery" will look at the short and long-term implications of the current crises in the industry.


All figures are provisional — represent total reporting plus estimates for missing data

April-2003 (Percent Change over April 2002)


Year to Date Results (Jan-Apr 2003 over Jan-Apr 2002)


Notes for Editors

1. Explanation of measurements:
a. ASK: Available Seat Kilometres measures available passenger capacity
b. RPK: Revenue Passenger Kilometres measures actual passenger traffic
c. ATK: Available Tonne Kilometres measures available cargo capacity
d. FTK: Freight Tonne Kilometres measures actual freight traffic
2. Global international passenger traffic in October 2001, the month after the September 11 attacks, fell 23.5%. This does not incorporate US Domestic traffic which was the even more severely impacted in the aftermath of September 11.
3. IATA statistics cover international scheduled air traffic only and do not include domestic traffic.
4. It should be noted that with Easter falling in April this year and March in 2002, this has the effect of making year-on-year traffic results in some regions appear healthier than might otherwise be the case.