As a passenger, you'd probably love to be surrounded by empty seats. For airlines, though, the opposite is true. People in the airline industry use the term passenger load factor (PLF) as a metric to measure how full a flight is. But what exactly is it?
The PLF ratio is calculated by dividing the number of seats sold by the number of passenger seats in the plane. If a plane from Amsterdam to Barcelona flies 81 passengers but has 100 seats, the load factor would be 81%. A full flight has a PLF of 100%. More seats filled means higher PLF, which leads to more revenue for airlines.
How full were flights across the globe last year?
According to IATA, the global passenger load factor hit a record high of 81.4% in 2017. Europe and North America led the pack with respective load factors of 83.9% and 83.6%, while Africa had the lowest PLF with 70.9% for the year.
We decided to dive deeper to find out how airlines in each region performed when considering full service and low-cost carriers. We collected data from 122 airlines who publicly list their PLF figures. From these airlines, full service carriers had an average PLF of 77.4%, while low-cost carriers had a strong performance with a PLF of 83.9%.
Check out our findings in the infographic below. You can also download the infographic as a PDF file.
So to recap, these were the average PLFs per region (in ranking order):
- Europe 83.9%
- North America 83.6%
- Latin America 81.8%
- Asia Pacific 81.0%
- Middle East 74.5%
- Africa 70.9%
For more information, check out IATA's Air Passenger Market Analysis for 2017.