AAPA: Robust growth in passenger travel, while air cargo demand recedes

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Preliminary April 2023 traffic figures released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed continuing recovery in international passenger demand, reflecting the unabated appetite for travel in the region.

Collectively, Asia Pacific airlines recorded a 249.8% year-on-year increase in the number of international passengers carried to a total of 20.3 million in April, with demand averaging 63.3% of the corresponding month in 2019. Measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), demand grew by 198.9% compared to the same month last year. Available seat capacity grew a more modest 150.2%, raising the average international passenger load factor by 13.0 percentage points to 80.0% for the month.

Meanwhile, export activity remained relatively muted, held back by declines in new business orders and trade barriers due to geopolitical tensions. The easing of supply chain pressures globally also encouraged a shift to maritime shipping.

Against this background, air cargo demand as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) fell by 5.5% year-on-year in April. As offered freight capacity continued to increase 10.4%, the average international freight load factor declined markedly by 10.1 percentage points to 59.8% for the month.

Subhas Menon, director general of AAPA
Subhas Menon, director general of AAPA.

“The recovery in Asian travel markets is still strong, with traffic flows within the region and from the region experiencing robust growth. Overall, during the first four months of the year, Asia Pacific airlines carried a total of 74.2 million international passengers, a strong 438% year-on-year jump compared to the previous corresponding period,” said Subhas Menon, AAPA director general. “By contrast, air cargo markets fell 11% during the same period, underlining the challenging business environment amid rising uncertainty in global economic conditions.”

Looking ahead, Menon said, “Growth prospects for international passenger markets remain healthy, supported by positive trends in forward bookings over the coming months. While global economic growth is expected to moderate, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Asia Pacific economies to record a combined 4.6% increase in GDP this year, up from 3.8% in 2022, with domestic demand supporting growth in business and leisure travel. To meet strong recovery in demand, Asian airlines are working with aviation stakeholders to restore flights to various destinations, while prioritising safety, sustainability, and travel convenience. Measures include staff recruitment, training, and investments in the digitalisation of the travel process, to upkeep the service standards for which the region’s airlines are known.”

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