Australia’s domestic airlines flew emptier aircraft in January despite cutting the number of available seats in the market.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) said on Tuesday there were 4.67 million passengers on domestic regular public transport (RPT) flights in January, down 3.6 per cent from the prior corresponding period.
At the same time, the number of available seats shrunk 2.1 per cent in the month, leading to a 1.1 percentage point fall in load factors to 75.6 per cent.
“Load factors on individual routes decreased on 40 of the 61 RPT routes for which data is available in both years,” the BITRE report said.
The top six busiest routes measured by passenger traffic – including the Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney triangle routes – all experienced fewer travellers in January, compared with the prior corresponding period.
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said recently that while Australian airlines were “coming out of the bottom now”, thanks in part to lower fuel prices, there were still difficulties in the local market.
“Unfortunately, consumer sentiment particularly for the domestic market is still very low so the leisure part of the market is not as buoyant as you would expect,” Borghetti told guests at a business lunch in Sydney on March 18.
“But that will come as hopefully confidence comes back into the market.”
The BITRE figures highlighted some leisure orientated routes recorded hefty falls in January, such as Melbourne-Sunshine Coast where passenger numbers fell 14.1 per cent, as well as Coffs Harbour-Sydney (down 17.1 per cent) and Brisbane-Hamilton Island (down 19.5 per cent).
Several mining routes also experienced big passenger declines in January, with Perth-Port Hedland down 13.2 per cent, Newman-Perth down 18.6 per cent and Brisbane-Emerald down 22.6 per cent.