Dragged by MCO’s travel restrictions, MAHB passenger traffic plunges 63.6% in March

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR (April 10): Passenger volume at the 39 airports that Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) operates in Malaysia plunged 63.6% annually to 3.24 million in March, due to the unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by the government since March to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This is the second straight month the airport operator recorded contraction in terms of passenger traffic. In February, MAHB reported a 23.4% year-on-year (y-o-y) slump in passenger numbers to 6.24 million passengers from 8.15 million passengers last year. 

Prior to this, it posted a 6.66% y-o-y increase in passenger traffic to 8.93 million in January this year, from 8.37 million passengers a year ago. 

On the local front, the airport operator handled 3.24 million passengers in March this year, falling 63.6% compared with 8.89 million passengers in the same period in 2019.

March's figure brings the year-to-date number (1Q2020) to 25.5 million, registering a 23.9% y-o-y decrease from 33.55 million passengers previously.

In March, there were reductions in both international and domestic travellers. The international sector declined 71.8% y-o-y to 1.3 million passengers, from 4.5 million passengers.

International passenger movements for Asean declined 70% y-o-y to 677,000 passengers from 2.25 million passengers last year. Non-Asean sectors sank 73.6% to 587,000 passengers from 2.22 million passengers last year.

The domestic sector also fell, decreasing 55.3% y-o-y to 2 million passengers from 4.4 million passengers. 

Overall aircraft movements declined 43.4% y-o-y, with international movements declining 52.3% and domestic aircraft movements falling 37.7% over the same period of last year. 

The average load factor for overall traffic declined 21.8 percentage points to 54.1 in March 2019, according to MAHB. 

At KLIA, passenger traffic declined 66.7% in March by registering 1.7 million passenger movements, against 5.24 million passengers. 

Of which, the international sector for KLIA declined 70.2% to 1.1 million passengers, from 3.8 million passengers a year ago. The domestic sector passenger movements declined 57.6% over March with 623,000 million passengers recorded compared with 1.5 million passengers in March 2019. 

Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd’s (MASB) airports, which are the other airports that the group handles besides KLIA, saw passenger movements declining 59.2% to 1.5 million passengers in March, from 3.7 million passengers in March 2019. 

In the case of Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SGIA), the airport passenger movements declined 46.1% to 1.5 million in March, of which international and domestic sectors declined 57.1% and 39.3% respectively over March 2019.

MAHB said airports in Malaysia registered decreasing passenger movements from the end of January and the falling rate accelerated from March 18 corresponding to the Movement Control Order (MCO) announced by the government that restricted both Malaysians and foreigners from travelling to and from Malaysia. 

Similarly, MAHB said Istanbul SGIA passenger movements experienced a decline in passengers following the suspension of flights imposed to certain countries in stages and later to all international destinations announced by the government of Turkey from March 27 onwards. Currently, Istanbul SGIA airport is closed for operations for a period between March 28 and April 30. 

Moving forward, MAHB said the traffic recovery would depend on the speed and extent at which Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control at the domestic level as well internationally. 

“While China seems to be recovering, the international flights to Malaysia would only resume if the contagion level in Malaysia is at a level that would encourage cross-border travel. Nevertheless, the prime initiator of air travel would be the level of control of the Covid-19,” it added. 

Meanwhile, MAHB said it has begun proactively executing a group-wide optimisation plan to ensure that the group is able to meet its financial and operational obligations. This includes reviewing operational efficiencies, rebasing cost, prioritising capital expenditure and conserving cash to safeguard its financial resilience while ensuring business continuity under difficult conditions.

MAHB shares closed unchanged at RM4.4, valuing it at a market capitalisation of RM7.3 billion. The counter saw some 4.76 million shares done. 

Year-to-date, the counter has fallen some 42% from RM7.60 on Dec 31, 2019.