BTS: US airlines’ service load factor down to 83.5 percent

WASHINGTON, DC - The US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today that U.S.

BTS: US airlines’ service load factor down to 83.5 percent

WASHINGTON, DC – The US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today that U.S. airlines’ systemwide (domestic and international) scheduled service load factor – a measure of the use of airline capacity – fell to 83.5 percent in March, seasonally-adjusted, declining after rising for three consecutive months. Seasonal adjustment allows the comparing of monthly load factors to all other months.

U.S. airlines reported a seasonally-adjusted all-time monthly high of systemwide passenger enplanements in March of 65.0 million, exceeding the previous record in August 2007 by 0.3 percent. They also reported a seasonally-adjusted all-time monthly high of systemwide Revenue Passenger-Miles (RPMs) in March of 73.5 billion, exceeding the previous record in December 2014 by 0.2 percent. These all-time highs did not result in a higher load factor in March because of the growth in airline capacity.

The March load factor of 83.5 was below the all-time seasonally-adjusted high of 84.6 reached in January 2014 and was the eighth highest all-time. Load factor is a measure of the use of aircraft capacity that compares the system use, measured in RPMs as a proportion of system capacity, measured in Available Seat-Miles (ASMs).

The seasonally-adjusted load factor fell in March following a rise in February to 84.0, the highest point in 12 months. The load factor declined from February to March despite a 0.7 percent increase in RPMs because system capacity grew faster (1.3 percent increase in ASMs).

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Seasonally-adjusted

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The March load factor (83.5) continued the trend to higher load factors as all of the top 10 load factor months have been post-recession. February 2015 was the third highest month all-time and March was the eighth. Load factors have generally increased since the recession because passenger travel has increased at a faster pace than capacity. In March, RPMs, the passenger measure used to calculate load factor, reached the highest all-time level. However, the RPM increase did not keep pace with the increase in ASMs, leading to a decrease in the load factor. The last nine months, starting with July 2014 through March 2015 are the nine all-time highest months for RPMs.

Unadjusted

Systemwide: Load factor (83.9) was up from March 2014 but down from the all-time March high set in 2013 (84.3). The number of passengers, RPMs and ASMs reached all-time highs for the month of March.

For the first quarter, January through March, load factor (81.2) was down from the all-time March high set in 2014 (81.3). RPMs reached an all-time high for the first quarter, exceeding the previous high set in 2008. The number of passengers and ASMs were below the 2008 levels.

Domestic: Load factor (85.8) was at an all-time high for the month of March, exceeding the previous high set in 2014 (85.5). The number of passengers and RPMs reached all-time highs for the month of March. ASMs remained below the pre-recession levels.

International: Load factor (79.5), while up from March 2014, was below the all-time March high set in 2013 (82.5). The number of passengers was down 0.4 percent from the all-time highs for the month of March, set in 2014. RPMs and ASMs were virtually unchanged from all-time highs set in March 2014.

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