KUALA LUMPUR, 31 March 2021: Preliminary traffic figures
released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) on Monday showed
international air traffic demand remaining at depressed levels as a result of
continued border restrictions.
Meanwhile, robust export activity amid improving global
business confidence boosted demand for air cargo.
Overall, international passenger demand worsened in
February, as fears over the spread of Covid-19 variants prompted the imposition
of additional layers of border control measures.
In aggregate, the region’s airlines carried only 1.2 million
international passengers, representing just 6.3% of the 18.3 million passengers
recorded in the same month last year, when air travel demand was already
slowing due to the intensifying spread of Covid-19 across the world.
Available seat capacity was 14.9% of levels registered last
year, whilst the average international passenger load factor of 24.8% for the
month underscored the extremely weak demand conditions.
For the region’s carriers, international air cargo demand,
as measured in freight tonne-kilometres (FTK), climbed 7.6% higher compared to
the same month last year, on the back of an acceleration in trade activity.
The grounding of passenger aircraft fleets as well as the
disruption to container shipping, led to additional pressure on limited air
freight capacity. In February, offered freight capacity declined by 9.2%
year-on-year, despite increased use of dedicated freighter aircraft
supplemented by additional cargo-only passenger flights. As a result, the
international freight load factor recorded an 11.1 percentage point increase to
an average of 71.7% for the month.
Commenting on the results, AAPA director general Subhas
Menon said: “During the first two months of the year, Asian airlines carried
just 4% of the number of international passengers that flew in the
corresponding months of 2019, before the pandemic decimated travel.”
He added, “Air cargo remains the single bright spot for the
Asian carriers. International air cargo demand for the first two months of the
year was 2.2% higher than in 2019. Nevertheless, cargo revenue could not offset
the collapse in passenger revenue. With travel markets shuttered by border
closures, airlines will require further government support to weather the
But he noted that the rebound in economic activity is
progressing globally, whilst the travel and tourism sectors continue to be
severely curtailed by differing travel requirements and restrictions, with the
unpredictability of further changes.
“The region’s airlines are focusing efforts in digitalising
the travel process, including using technologies that aid governments and
travellers in managing health credentials securely and efficiently. The latest
updates to the ICAO CART guidelines are a further positive step towards the
safe resumption of international air travel.
“We call on governments to fully embrace the guidelines
and collaborate with one another to ensure that travel requirement are
harmonised for the convenience of the travelling public.”