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June 17, 2024
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Sir Brian Burridge is an accomplished man – Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Kevin Burridge, KCB, CBE, ADC, FCMI, FRAeS is a retired Royal Air Force officer. A former Nimrod pilot, Burridge was in overall command of British forces under Operation Telic during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In a Zoom chat with us back in the pandemic, he mentioned a classic line.; “There is a golden thread that passes through the economy called commercial aviation”.   Those words have echoed as the global aviation industry tried to recover from what must be its worst blow. What does tracking global domestic air travel show us?

China is a useful example.  Here are two charts that provide context.  The first is passenger traffic as reported by CAAC. Look at the industry yo-yo. And the ups and downs are over more than two years – how does an airline survive this? Clearly, state support is necessary, regardless of politics.  Commercial aviation is a big employer of high skills.  That is a talent pool you do not want to lose.

Here we have a chart tracking daily aircraft hours.  This helps to demonstrate the utilization of the nation’s fleet.  Bear in mind that China is the closest market in size to the US, so it is big and it is growing fast.  Once again we see the wild swings.  The trend line shows a long-term decline.  However, we see March 2023 saw continued recovery which started in November 2022.  Has the up-and-down cycle been broken? Our friends at Visual Approach believe so. Supporting their thesis is that CAAC reports passenger load factor is back over 70% even as the cargo load factor has been consistently in that range from January 2022.

What do other major air travel markets look like? We have been developing a data model to track markets. The focus is on domestic air travel for each market.  The model has been tiered to allow cleaner modeling.  The clutter would be awful without this. Tier 1 is China, India, and the US.  These three are large enough to warrant a tier, for example. On each page, there are two charts.  The upper shows the actual traffic volume.  The lower shows the index of each market, where January 2019 is 100.

As always, suggestions and ideas are welcomed.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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