Australia’s domestic airlines carried half a million fewer passengers in 2014/15, as sluggish consumer confidence and the changing nature of the nation’s mining sector kept more travellers on the ground.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) report on domestic airline activity for the 2014/15 financial year said there were 57.22 million passengers who flew on regular public transport (RPT) services in the 12 months to June 30 2015, down 0.9 per cent from 57.72 million the prior corresponding period.
Meanwhile, capacity measured by available seat kilometres (ASK) fell by 1.4 per cent. As a result, load factors on RPT services rose 0.4 percentage points to 76.4 per cent.
“Load factors on individual routes increased on 28 of the 59 RPT routes for which data is available in both years,” the BITRE report said.
Among the top 65 routes for which the BITRE report provided figures, it was intrastate routes in Western Australia and Queensland – the nation’s two biggest mining states – that suffered the biggest percentage drop in passenger numbers in 2014/15 as construction activity in the resources sector dropped away.
In Queensland, RPT passengers on the Brisbane-Mackay route slid 14.7 per cent, while Brisbane-Hamilton Island (down 14.6 per cent) Brisbane-Emerald (down 12.6 per cent), Brisbane-Moranbah (down 14 per cent) and Brisbane-Mt Isa (down 13.9 per cent) all recorded double-digit falls in 2014/15 compared with the prior year.
In WA, there were 14.5 per cent fewer passengers between Perth and Newman, while traffic on the Geraldton-Perth route fell 8.4 per cent.
The market on Australia’s so-called east coast triangle between Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney was steady in 2014/15, with Sydney-Melbourne posting a 2.2 per cent increase in traffic, while it was up 1.3 per cent on the Brisbane-Melbourne route. However, passenger numbers eased one per cent on Brisbane-Sydney.
And passengers were only slightly weaker on the trans-continental trek from Perth to Brisbane (down 3.3 per cent), Melbourne (down 2.8 per cent) and Sydney (down 1.7 per cent).
On the positive side, predominantly leisure routes such as Sydney-Uluru (up 21.2 per cent) and Sydney-Hamilton Island (up 12.9 per cent) had increased passengers.
The BITRE report noted more than one third of all charter passengers in Australia took flights either to or from Perth Airport.
Looking at the current year, Qantas said in August capacity across its Qantas and Jetstar domestic networks was expected to increase between zero and one per cent in the first half of 2015/16.
While Virgin has not provided capacity guidance for the period ahead, details of its fleet plans suggests it too will be modest about adding seats into the domestic market.
Virgin said in August it expected to take delivery of four new Boeing 737-800s in 2015/16 and return three of the type back to lessors. Further, three of Virgin’s 737-800s will be used by its low-cost carrier subsidiary Tigerair to operate international service to Bali from March 2016.