KUALA LUMPUR, 4 June 2021: International passengers demand
remains in the doldrums, according to preliminary traffic figures released
earlier this week by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA).

The association confirmed that passenger demand for its
member airlines in the Asia-Pacific had suffered depressed volumes seen since
April 2020.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and surges in transmission
across many Asian economies have resulted in renewed border control
restrictions as well as domestic lockdowns, quelling hopes of any meaningful
resumption in international travel markets.

Asia Pacific airlines carried 1.1 million international
passengers in April, which represented a small improvement over the same period
in 2020 when international passenger volumes plunged during the first wave of
the Covid-19 pandemic. But the real comparison with 2019 (pre-Covid-19 times)
shows the April 2021 performance was just 3.5% of passenger volumes recorded in
the same month of 2019. Available seat capacity was only 4% of levels
registered in 2019, with the international passenger load factor averaging
26.4% for the month.

Meanwhile, countries that have begun vaccination rollouts
continued to benefit from a revival in their domestic economies, which in turn
fuelled demand for goods. Accordingly, the acceleration in global trade
activity continued to benefit the region’s carriers, which saw air cargo demand
in international freight tonne-kilometres (FTK) grow by 42% year-on-year in
April, achieving volumes slightly above the same period in 2019. Offered
freight capacity rose by 29.4% year-on-year, resulting in a 6.7 percentage
point increase in the average international freight load factor to 74.8% for
the month.

Commenting on the results, AAPA director general Subhas
Menon said: “The emergence of different variants with higher transmissibility
rates has deterred Asian economies from reopening their borders, with extended
quarantine requirements further suppressing international travel demand.

“Bilateral travel corridors offer hope for a recovery, yet
remain susceptible to disruptions, as evidenced by the second postponement of
the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble, reflecting the extremely challenging
operating conditions faced by airlines.”

He noted that in Asia, the relatively slow pace of
vaccinations continues to undermine the region’s economic recovery, in
particular, the travel and tourism sectors, which have been badly hit.
Accelerating vaccination rollouts would be key to paving the way for the
restart of the travel industry. However, governments are still facing numerous
challenges, including supply constraints and logistical issues.

Menon concluded, “As Covid-19 becomes endemic in society and
borders progressively reopen, the collaboration of multiple stakeholders such
as governments, airlines, airports and service providers, as well as the
implementation of harmonised risk-based measures in accordance with ICAO and
WHO guidelines, will be needed to restart international air travel in a smart,
safe and sustainable way.”

(Source: News AAPA)