Aviation Wrap-up March 2024: Key Developments

With the first quarter of 2024 over, a look back shines the spotlight on key developments. Q1 saw European airports’ international passenger traffic reach pre-pandemic levels, while air cargo demand saw an 18% increase in January. Continuing the industry efforts towards accessibility, airlines are awaiting the final details of a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal which would introduce new rules on how they transport wheelchairs and accommodate passengers with disabilities using them. Finally, while it may seem like flight delays are becoming a common experience for air travelers, some airlines are leading in on-time performance. Find out more in our aviation wrap-up March 2024.

European Airports Reach Pre-Pandemic Levels on Their International Passenger Traffic

ACI Europe recently revealed that international passenger volumes at European airports have reached 2019 levels. It is the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that these volumes have been attained. Specifically, the international passenger traffic increased by 7% in January 2024 over January 2023 figures. In contrast, domestic traffic continued at 13% lower than 2019 levels.

For European airports with over 40 million annual passengers, traffic increased by 8.3% when compared to January 2023. The drivers in this increase were strong transatlantic demand, the steady return of Chinese travelers, and network airlines’ increasing their capacities. The busiest European airport according to ACI was London Heathrow which had 8,000 more passengers than the second busiest airport, Istanbul Airport.

Air Cargo Demand Achieves an 18% Increase 

In what many are calling an amazing performance, air cargo demand increased by 18.4% year-on-year in January 2024 for the second consecutive month. From a regional perspective, some regions fared better than others as follows:

  • Asia-Pacific airlines saw air cargo volumes grow by 24.6% year-on-year in January. These airlines benefited from the continued growth in CFKs on three major trade lanes – Africa-Asia (+52.5%), Middle East-Asia (+29.5%), and  Europe-Asia (+27.5%).
  • North American carriers saw growth in the North America-Asia trade lane (+17.1%) and North America-Europe lane (+3.5%).
  • European carriers recorded air cargo volumes increase by 16.4% in January dominated by demand on the Intra-Europe and Europe-Asia lanes.
  • Middle Eastern carriers had the strongest performance in January 2024 showing a +25.9% year-on-year in cargo volumes.
  • Latin American carriers recorded +13.4% in cargo volumes year-on-year.
  • African carriers experienced a 17% increase in air cargo volumes.

IATA cited as factors contributing to the increase in air cargo demand the rise in e-commerce, along with some shippers opting for new modes of transportation due to the Red Sea Crisis.

Although the majority of wheelchairs reach their destination without incident, any mishandling can pose significant risks to passengers, especially those who rely on advanced wheelchair models.

U.S. DOT Proposes New Airline Wheelchair Handling Rules

Making air travel accessible to people with disabilities is crucial in the commitment to being inclusive. Data suggests that around one in five individuals in the United States have a disability, while over 10% of the EU population experiences reduced mobility.

Airline passengers who rely on wheelchairs to get around airports will appreciate the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) proposed rules for how airlines handle wheelchairs. The rules would govern how airlines transport wheelchairs and accommodate passengers who need wheelchairs.

The DOT’s new wheelchair rules would levy hefty penalties and impose new training and operating standards for carriers. Any mishandling of wheelchairs would be considered a violation of the Air Carriers Access Act, legislation which prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers due to a disability. Violations would incur potential fines of over $120,000 per Incident. Airlines would be required to replace or repair wheelchairs and adequate loaners during delays.

In 2022, 741,582 wheelchairs were carried by the ten largest airlines and 11,389 (1.5%) were damaged, lost, or significantly delayed.

OTP: These Airlines Made it to the Top Ten

Avoiding flight delays is not only valued by passengers, but airlines too appreciate the role of punctuality in avoiding unnecessary costs, supporting productivity, and most importantly gaining passenger satisfaction and the associated brand loyalty.

Here are the top ten punctual airlines:

  1. Avianca, the Columbian flag carrier and second largest in South America ranked the world’s most punctual airline. Its fleet of 123 aircraft, operating in 74 destinations, achieved 85.73% On-Time Arrival (OTA) in 2023 out of 213,039 flights.
  2. Azul, the low-cost Brazilian airline, which operates a fleet of 167 aircraft, serves routes to 161 destinations. It achieved an 85.51% in OTA out of 310,072 flights.
  3. Qatar Airways, the most prominent airline in the Middle East, has a fleet of 258 aircraft flying to 198 international destinations across five continents. Qatar achieved 85.11% OTA out of 183,090 flights.
  4. Delta Air Lines, the oldest operating airline in the U.S. and seventh oldest in the world, operates over 5,400 flights daily and serves 325 destinations in 52 countries. Delta, which has the highest turnover of all airlines worldwide, achieved an 84.72% OTA out of 1,635,486 flights.
  5. Iberia, Spain’s flag carrier, operates a fleet of 89 aircraft to over 109 destinations in 39 countries. It achieved 84.38% OTA out of 170,750 flights, making it the most punctual airline in Europe.
  6. LATAM Airlines, Chile’s flag carrier and the largest airline in South America, serves 145 destinations. It achieved an 84.00% OTA out of 508,722 flights.
  7. All Nippon Airlines, Japan’s second largest airline, operates a fleet of 214 aircraft to 92 destinations in North America, Europe, and Asia. It achieved 82.75% OTA which makes it Asia’s punctual airline. 
  8. Japan Airlines operates a fleet of 143 aircraft to 91 destinations in North America, Europe, and Asia. It recorded 82.58% OTA out of 308,302 flights.
  9. Saudia, the flag carrier for Saudi Arabia, operates a flight fleet of 156 aircraft to over 100 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. It achieved 81.29% OTA out of 174,256 flights.
  10. American Airlines, one of the world’s biggest airlines based on revenue, operates 6,800 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in 48 countries. It achieved 80.61% OTA out of 1,998,844 flights.

>> What are your thoughts on the state of aviation in the first quarter of 2024? Share in the comments!

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