BITRE July 2019 domestic aviation statistics: continuing weak demand | Australian Frequent Flyer
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BITRE July 2019 domestic aviation statistics: continuing weak demand

Melburnian1

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On 19 September BITRE released its July 2019 domestic air passenger figures:


The numbers carried rose only 0.2 per cent when comparing July 2019 to July 2018.

There were 23 weekdays in July 2019 compared to 22 in July 2018. Normally this should mean, all else being equal, higher patronage in July 2019 as weekdays are typically busier than Saturdays (and Sunday mornings.

The number of aircraft trips rose 3.8 per cent. This is surprising at first glance given the weak demand, but may be mostly due to the 'extra weekday.'

Load factors were down. While this does not disclose anything about yields, it must still be of concern to airlines and brings into focus Alan Joyce's comments where even he - not one to shout bad news from the pulpit unless he's after a government subsidy or bailout - has admitted that there's soft demand for leisure travel domestically.

It's hard for the overall passenger numbers to climb much when the busiest route (MEL - SYD and return) suffered a drop of 2.1 per cent in monthly passengers comparing the two Julys. The other two busiest routes (BNE - SYD and BNE - MEL) also had decreases.

Passenger numbers for the month declined even faster at SYD and MEL than the tiny rise for the whole network, with SYD dropping 0.7 per cent and MEL 0.6 per cent, while BNE rose a tiny 0.1 per cent. Interestingly PER was up 2.2 per cent. Does this reflect increased iron ore mining activity and what have been good prices for that commodity given the mining tailings dams problems experienced in competitor Brazil?

Patrons using CNS for the month declined 3.1 per cent while much smaller DRW was down 2.8 per cent. These are hefty decreases for tourism-related airports. That NT tourism is in trouble is not surprising (and has been reported by the media occasionally, although more frequently it's how the NT Labor government is close to bankrupt) but I wasn't aware that tourism (and trade?) in FNQ was depressed.

We don't generally have information about when individual tenancies at major airports are up for renewal but if these passenger decreases continue, one might expect some robust discussions from tenants demanding smaller rent increases, or even decreased rent. Our airports are notorious for charging stratospheric rents. While I don't monitor it, on occasion one notices a new tenant moving in that can be a sign the previous occupant was unable to trade profitably or sufficiently in the black.

Population in Australia overall is rising at about 1.6 per cent per annum, although there's been a cut in immigration to about 160000 per annum, so in per capita terms the number of flights being taken domestically has dropped.

As it's been discussed in another 'open discussion' thread, I'll only briefly touch on it, but while airlines (especially QF) are good at fuel hedging, one wonders whether the attacks in Saudi Arabia on storages will have an eventual flow though (no pun intended) effect meaning higher domestic air fares. This would crimp demand a bit more even if some is inelastic.

The number of people outside AFF that I know who are in business (not government) and 'constantly' fly is small, so if you are in the private sector, have you and others in your entity not changed your frequency of trips by air, have you increased these or (like the statistics) is there some sort of decrease? Or is it only leisure travellers flying less?

With the leisure travellers, I don't get the impression that they are undertaking trips by other modes (especially driving) to compensate. Some may simply be staying at home and reducing their domestic flights.
 
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JohnK

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Alan Joyce think there's soft demand for leisure travel domestically.

He doesn't need to look far. I'm not an expert but think we have the most expensive airfares in the past 20 years with very little flexibility.

I used to do 40-45 domestic trips a year. That will be down to 20-25 domestic trips this year. I cannot book in advance and I can no longer afford to travel on last minute airfares.

Going to Sydney this weekend. Found $91 JQ airfare from OOL and returning on Qantas award as airfares are >$194 one way. Looking to go again 3 weeks and 4 weeks later and the airfares are depressing.
 

Melburnian1

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Alan Joyce think there's soft demand for leisure travel domestically.

He doesn't need to look far. I'm not an expert but think we have the most expensive airfares in the past 20 years with very little flexibility.

I used to do 40-45 domestic trips a year. That will be down to 20-25 domestic trips this year. I cannot book in advance and I can no longer afford to travel on last minute airfares....
That's a very large decrease for you JohnK, and far more than the statistics indicate. My small sample of business travellers (who I know) suggests they're making fewer trips but they never quantify it to me, but seems to be a smaller decrease than for you.

Certainly in real terms airfares may have decreased compared with 30 years ago when there were those horrible restrictions on discount fare ssuch as needing to spend a Saturday night away, but irrespective as to what BITRE says in its air fare reports, my friends all claim that airfares in all classes have recently risen above CPI. I don't think they're just spinning a story.
 

JohnK

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When an airline sneaks in $4-$9 increases every couple of months you know it's not going to be good for the bottom line.

Yes there's short term profit there from the increased airfares but they're losing clients. I've come to realise that I don't need to go back to SYD every week and I'm not going to increase frequency if airfares decrease. I suspect businesses will be thinking along the same lines.
 

dajop

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John you’ll have to start commuting to BNE from Thailand. It might be cheaper :eek:

It does get a bit ridiculous when you take a three sector trip (with stopovers in each city) SIN-MEL-OOL-SIN, all on LCCs, and the most expensive of those sectors is also the shortest.
 

Melburnian1

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John you’ll have to start commuting to BNE from Thailand. It might be cheaper :eek:
dajop, you jest, and there has to be a 'flagfall' with any public transport (including air) fare, but even after accounting for the high costs businesses within Australia face, the disparity between what travellers typically pay in the same class of travel and with similar fare conditions for domestic versus international air trips on a per kilometre basis is huge.

If JohnK's sentiments are even mildly copied by businesses as he suggests, it may be a while before passenger numbers domestically start showing real (i.e. greater than population growth on a per capita basis) increases.

What JohnK is really saying is that for businesses there's a degree of demand elasticity - although maybe less than for leisure travellers. I had thought that so many businesses seem to have so much money to throw around that they (and many of their staff) just constantly spend on domestic air fares whatever the cost but JohnK is suggesting that's incorrect.
 

dajop

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What JohnK is really saying is that for businesses there's a degree of demand elasticity - although maybe less than for leisure travellers. I had thought that so many businesses seem to have so much money to throw around that they (and many of their staff) just constantly spend on domestic air fares whatever the cost but JohnK is suggesting that's incorrect.
My experience, with several large multinational companies, seems to be fairly consistent in terms of demand elasticity. When times are good your observation is correct, constant spending irrespective of price, but when times are bad there's a shift to a very inelastic curve. Probably best illustrated in a graph ... Axis B for "times are good" shifts to Axis C for "times not so good", whilst Graph A shows what you would intuitively expect (and maybe this is the case for small business + leisure sectors)

MNC demand.jpg
 

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