Preliminary May 2022 traffic figures released by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show international air passenger demand strengthened markedly following the lifting of travel restrictions that unleashed a robust return of travellers since the pandemic.

For the month, the number of international passengers carried by Asia Pacific airlines increased more than five-fold to a combined total of 7.3 million, with demand rising to 23.6 per cent of volumes recorded in May 2019.

Load factors rebound

The jump in demand, combined with a relatively more moderate 114.8 per cent expansion in available seat capacity, led to a significant 43.7 percentage point increase in the average international passenger load factor to 71.5 per cent for the month, narrowing the gap to levels achieved before the pandemic brought international travel to a standstill.

By contrast, prevailing supply chain disruptions and slowing demand further stymied global trade activity. This, in turn, led to a 5.6 per cent year-on-year decline in international air cargo demand as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) in May.

Meanwhile, offered freight capacity expanded by 1.0 per cent year-on-year compared to the same month last year, with a 4.8 percentage point decline in the international freight load factor to an average of 69.4 per cent for the month.

Strong uplift in international travel

Commenting on the results, Subhas Menon, AAPA Director General said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the world in many ways. Yet, what hasn’t changed is people’s desire to travel, as evidenced by the strong uplift in international travel upon the lifting of border control measures across the region.

“On the other hand, after a buoyant 2021, air cargo demand is facing some headwinds with export orders facing downward pressures, driven by waning business confidence levels amid an increasingly cloudy global economic outlook.”

Menon continued: “As the region’s airlines emerge from the deepest and most prolonged crisis ever faced, keeping a lid on costs remains vital, as escalating fuel expenditure, higher labour and maintenance costs, on top of substantially heavier debt burdens, threaten to undermine the already fragile financial recovery. In addition, airlines face increasing operational constraints as the air transport eco-system strives to keep up with the ramp-up in demand.

“Nevertheless, the healthy increase in international passenger demand and corresponding recovery in load factors lends some cause for optimism, as the region’s airlines continue to streamline operations while investing to improve the travel experience as part of ongoing efforts to achieve a sustainable and technology-enabled future for air transport.”

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