Global airline passenger travel dropped faster in May than in the previous months, a trade group reported on Thursday, suggesting that things are not getting better for air carriers.
The number of passengers flying on premium tickets fell 23.6 percent in May compared with May 2008, according to the International Air Transport Association. That follows a 22 percent decline in April. Meanwhile, the number of passengers flying coach fell 7.6 percent, after growing 0.3 percent in April.
Travel in first- and business class is only 7 percent to 10 percent of overall airline travel, but accounts for up to 30 percent of passenger revenue. Airlines tend to make the most money on those passengers, or at least not lose as much as they do on cheaper tickets. And in May, revenue from those premium seats fell 40 percent to 45 percent, IATA said.
International travel fell 9.2 percent in May, the biggest year-over-year drop so far in 2009.
Airlines are luring remaining travelers with steep discounts, even in the front of the plane. Discounts in coach have been common, but even premium fares were running around 20 percent lower than last year through April, according to IATA.
"This is likely a sign that airlines are seeking to generate any cash they can by filling these seats," IATA wrote in its report.
Premium traffic in the North Atlantic was down 16.5 percent in May. Travel across the North and Mid-Pacific was down 30.7 percent, and travel within Europe was down 30.6 percent.