Airlines cut capacity on international flights into and out of Australia for a sixth consecutive month in September, government figures show.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) monthly report on international airline activity showed the number of available seats on flights to and from Australia fell 1.6 per cent in September, compared with the prior corresponding period.
The last time international capacity, measured by available seats, expanded was in March 2019 when it rose 0.1 per cent.
While the recent trend has been for international capacity growth of about five per cent a year, challenging economic conditions, overcapacity in some markets and local factors such as the political demonstrations in Hong Kong have prompted airlines to trim schedules.
Examples include Qantas reducing capacity to Hong Kong by downgauging aircraft on those routes, Emirates dropping Sydney-Dubai-Bangkok and cutting back the number of Dubai-Perth services, and Chinese carriers scaling back their Australian network.
Also, Virgin Australia had brought in service reductions on its trans-Tasman network. And looking ahead, Virgin Australia has also announced the end of Melbourne-Hong Kong nonstop flights from February 2020, while Qantas is ending Sydney-Beijing nonstop services in March.
The September BITRE figures showed average load factors – an industry term measuring how full flights are – on international flights was 83 per cent in September, up 1.9 percentage points from 81.1 per cent in the prior year.
And the total number of aircraft movements was down 0.1 per cent in the month.
Qantas was Australia’s largest international carrier in terms of passengers carried with 17.1 per cent of the market in September 2019, compared with 17.2 per cent in the prior corresponding period.
Jetstar grew its market share to 9.1 per cent in September, from 8.6 per cent previously.
Australia’s largest foreign carrier – and third overall – was Singapore Airlines with an 8.5 per cent market share, up from 8.4 per cent in the prior year.
Emirates (7.2 per cent) and Virgin Australia (6.7 per cent) rounded out the top five.
“The share of passenger traffic accounted for by Australian designated airlines has increased from 32.5 per cent in September 2018 to 32.9 per cent in September 2019,” the BITRE report said.
Meanwhile, total international freight carried fell 7.9 per cent to 90,274 tonnes in September 2019, from 98,027 tonnes in the prior corresponding period.
“Inbound freight traffic decreased by 8.2 per cent and outbound freight traffic decreased by 7.6 per cent compared to September 2018,” the BITRE report said.