Airline ticket sales in Thailand shrank by 20% in value and 10% in volume in the first quarter of this year, reflecting the global downturn in air travel industry.
The value of fares and surcharges on tickets issued in Thailand through the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) billing and settlement plan (BSP) system fell by 19.73% from the same period last year to 12.73 billion baht.
The value of net fares dived 23.39% year-on-year to 7.99 billion baht.
Meanwhile, the numbers of air tickets issued in Thailand through the system dropped 9.65% to 590,684, down from 653,789 year-on-year, according to IATA's Bangkok office.
The BSP system incorporates 388 IATA-accredited sales agents in Thailand, which process and secure fare payment to participating carriers.
These agents are responsible for roughly 80% of all air tickets issued in Thailand. The remaining 20% are sold through airlines' over-the-counter and on-line sales channels.
The steep decline was mainly attributed to global recession, but Thailand's political turmoil has taken its toll.
The outlook for ticket sales in the second quarter continues to look gloomy with consumer confidence deteriorating further because of additional factors, such as the Songkran riots and the (A)H1N1 flu outbreak.
Concerns over a possible (A)H1N1 pandemic would compound the misery for an industry already facing its worst financial crisis in decades.
Air travel demand has been falling globally for months, as businesses cut costs and tourism feels the pinch from the financial crisis.
IATA said global passenger traffic fell 11.1% in March over the same month in 2008, while cargo traffic fell 21.4%.
"Leisure travel will be hard hit and there will be trade-down for necessary business travel to the economy seats," said Chitvee Leelasiri, Thailand country manager for IATA.
It is too early to forecast the outlook for third-quarter ticket sales, he said, though trade is unlikely to pick up.