The main trade association for many of Asia’s top air carriers said preliminary traffic figures showed both international air passenger and air cargo demand plummeted in March as COVID-19 infections spread worldwide and the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified the virus as a global pandemic.
The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said Asia-Pacific airlines carried a combined total of only 8.8 million international passengers in March, representing a steep 72.9 percent decline compared to the same month last year. Demand in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) fell by 70.7 percent, while available seat capacity fell by 55.6 percent year-on-year, leading to a 27.4 percentage point plunge in the average international passenger load factor to 52.9 percent in March.
- COVID-19: IATA says world faces ‘severe cargo crunch’ as virus wreaks havoc globally
- McKinsey Report: Coronavirus-Airlines brace for severe turbulence
- COVID-19: The shape of aviation to come
- COVID-19: IATA warns of airline revenue losses at US$314 billion for 2020 due to pandemic
- COVID-19: AAPA says Asia-Pacific traffic down 93% in first week of April as borders remain closed
- COVID-19: IATA says 25 million jobs at risk as air travel shuts down
“The number of countries imposing travel restrictions globally more than doubled in March, which led to sharp falls in passenger demand, forcing drastic cutbacks in airline operating schedules and the grounding of thousands of aircraft,” the association said in statement announcing the data. “Airlines continued to operate dedicated all-freighter services, with some airlines also operating cargo-only passenger aircraft flights, partially compensating for the absence of belly-hold capacity resulting from the mass cancellations of passenger services,” it added.
Air cargo demand held up relatively well, but was impacted by supply chain disruptions and weakening business and consumer confidence in light of increasing uncertainty and rising unemployment in major economies across the world. The air cargo sector is playing a very active role in the transportation of much-needed medical equipment and supplies to countries around the world.
Asia Pacific airlines saw international air cargo demand, as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) decline by 21.1 percent year-on-year in March. Offered freight capacity fell by 31.1 percent, reflecting significant reductions in belly-hold cargo capacity on cancelled passenger services. As a result, the average international freight load factor was 9.1 percentage points higher at 71.9 percent for the month.
“The sharp escalation in the number of COVID-19 cases beyond Asia, severely impacted travel on international routes in March, with many countries effectively sealing off their borders,” said Subhas Menon, AAPA’s director general said. “Overall, Asian carriers saw a 38 percent decline in the number of international passengers carried to a combined total of 59 million in the first quarter of the year. During the same period, international air cargo demand fell by 10 percent, following declines in new export orders.”
Menon added that there “is great uncertainty as to how long the global slump will persist. Businesses and consumers are likely to remain risk averse until more is known about the nature and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic spread. Governments would persist in their efforts to suppress the spread of the virus through the imposition of strict measures on social distancing, movement restrictions and border controls. Even though Asia Pacific airlines are facing unprecedented challenges operationally and financially, they have been maintaining air connectivity by flying stranded people home and transporting essential supplies to places which need them most.”
Download the latest issue of Asian Aviation here.