Preliminary June 2020 traffic figures released Tuesday (28 July) by the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed that widespread travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic almost completely suppressed international air travel during the second quarter of 2020. Asian airlines carried just 724,000 international passengers in June, a 98 percent decline compared to the 31.8 million recorded in the same month last year. After accounting for a 93 percent decline in available seat capacity, the average passenger load factor was 36.3 percent for the month.
Air cargo demand, in freight tonne kilometre (FTK) terms, was 20.3 percent lower year-on-year, as demand for exports continued to falter on the back of economic weakness aggravated by disruptions to global supply chains. Offered freight capacity fell by 27.2 percent as most passenger aircraft were grounded, resulting in a 5.6 percentage point increase in the average international freight load factor to 64.9 percent for the month.
“Overall, Asia-Pacific airlines carried a total of 61 million international passengers during the first half of 2020, representing a 68 percent fall compared to the same period last year,” said Subhas Menon, AAPA’s director general. “International travel demand evaporated in the second quarter. Most flights were only operating to repatriate people to their home countries. Meanwhile, air cargo demand declined by 16 percent during the first half of the year, reflecting the general deterioration in consumer and business confidence. The industry is in a perilous condition. International flights continue to be grounded by border closures and onerous quarantine requirements, even when domestic lockdowns are being eased.
Looking ahead, Menon said “the prospect of a recovery in travel markets during the second half of the year is increasingly uncertain as governments grapple with a resurgence of local infections, with the re-imposition of community lockdowns and further tightening of travel restrictions. Uncoordinated measures between states, including blanket quarantines by some, are making international air travel extremely difficult even for those wishing to travel. Airlines in the Asia Pacific region are rapidly depleting cash reserves and incurring massive losses. It is critical for governments to recognise the debilitating impact of current policies and work cooperatively to re-establish global connectivity whilst maintaining appropriate measures to safeguard public health in line with guidance published by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”