Airport over the moon in March

A month ago I questioned some CairnsWatch trend passenger growth numbers for Cairns Airport. This month the airport reported numbers for March well in excess of even that trend. International was up a very impressive 36.3% but more significant was domestic up 12.9%.

That doesn’t invalidate my comments re the CairnsWatch trend on the numbers available at the time. There are also a number of seasonal factors playing out in this first half of the year. A blindingly obvious aspect overlooked last month was an extra leap year day in February. The Qantas report for that month attributes 3.6% to this which looks close to a pro rata for the extra day. Apply that to the Cairns Airport numbers and February becomes a weaker month with domestic growth significantly below trend.

Similarly the March numbers have been boosted by an earlier Easter and school holidays. Cairns Airport commentary has 2% – 3% of domestic growth attributed to this. Just like Chinese New Year the moon has much to answer for when it comes to seasonal analysis of monthly statistics.

That March number is still very positive and is also backed up again by good numbers elsewhere including above trend growth at Sydney Airport for the month. Then a week ago Qantas threw a surprise into an otherwise positive outlook. Qantas put out their March passenger report early and suggested a softer outlook had emerged at the end of March and with forward bookings so would reduce planned capacity growth: Qantas facing profit drop after shock cuts to capacity;  Qantas and Virgin Australia airfares are falling after last year’s jumps

Something of a shock and Qantas shares were hammered down almost 20% on ASX this week.   Jetstar services to Cairns seem to have been among the changes Jetstar cuts flights by about 3 per week to Cairns. Some international capacity has also been switched from their LA route to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Among these seasonal changes we also have a long weekend this year around Anzac Day followed by the replacement of the May Day weekend which will commence in April also. Too many things happening for any certainty on trends and the market response to Qantas may have been overdone if anything.

Charts and comparative data will be updated soon have now been updated at Cairns Airport.

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