KUALA LUMPUR, 1 February 2021: The Covid-19 pandemic
decimated international airline travel in 2020, but air cargo represents a
silver lining that could play a vital role in recovery, according to traffic
results for 2020 released at the weekend by the Association of Asia Pacific
Airlines (AAPA).

The 69 million passengers carried by Asia Pacific airlines
in the year 2020 represented only 18% of volumes recorded in 2019, a decline
not seen in the history of commercial aviation. Offered seat capacity collapses
delivering 19% of capacity recorded in 2019, while the international passenger
load factor averaged a low 61%.

During the global pandemic, the region’s carriers have
played a vital role in transporting medical supplies including vaccines,
personal protective equipment and other essential goods, even though capacity
was severely restricted as a result of the wide-scale grounding of passenger
aircraft.

As global economic activity rebounded in the latter half of
the year, the increase in export orders grew with the rising demand for the
speedy delivery of merchandise by air.

In December 2020, air cargo demand improved further in
freight tonne-kilometres (FTK), recording a single-digit year-on-year decline
of 6.4%. For the calendar year, international air cargo demand fell by 15.5%,
whilst offered freight capacity plunged by 24.4%. The average global freight
load factor rose significantly, by 7% points to 66.4% in 2020, with cargo
yields offering a welcome boost to operating revenue, although airlines continued
to face an existential crisis with commercial passenger operations remaining at
a standstill.

Commenting on the results, AAPA director general, Subhas
Menon said: “The dismal numbers underline the severity of the impact of the
pandemic on the airline industry. The discovery of several effective vaccines
towards the end of 2020 provided hope that recovery was on the horizon as large
scale vaccinations of their people, will give governments the confidence to
allow travellers from abroad without restrictions’’.

Menon added, “It will take time for the rollout of
vaccinations across the world, as well as for the pandemic to recede globally.
As the industry looks ahead, challenges remain as cross-border travel
restrictions will continue to affect air travel demand in 2021. We encourage
governments to step up coordination efforts on cross border risk mitigation
measures and health protocols. The implementation of harmonised protocols,
incorporating the ICAO CART Take-Off Guidance, is imperative for the safe
resumption of travel. Asia Pacific aviation is ready and willing to play its
part in the successful restart and recovery in the region.”