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.
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).
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.
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.