KUALA LUMPUR (March 2): Asia-Pacific airlines carried a combined 17.2 million international passengers in January, more than seven times the volume recorded in the same month last year when demand was still dampened by travel restrictions across the region, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said.
Preliminary traffic figures for January released on Thursday (March 2) by AAPA showed steady growth in international passenger traffic, on the back of strong travel demand with the easing of border restrictions, notably in North Asia.
"Traffic as measured in revenue passenger kilometres jumped 466.9%, underpinned by robust regional travel demand. Available seat capacity also expanded markedly, but by a comparatively slower 195% year-on-year (y-o-y). As a result, the average international passenger load factor increased significantly, by 39.1 percentage points to 81.5% for the month, returning to levels seen only before the onset of the pandemic," said AAPA director general Subhas Menon in a statement.
“International passenger markets enjoyed a strong start to the year in 2023. Strong demand buoyed by an increase in leisure travellers during the Lunar New Year holidays in the region saw the number of passengers carried by Asia-Pacific carriers in January rise to 52.1% of pre-pandemic traffic levels in 2019," he added.
However, in the air cargo segment, subdued global economic conditions continued to hold back export markets in January, leading to a significant 20.5% y-o-y decline in international air cargo demand.
Combined with a 7.5% drop in offered freight capacity, the international freight load factor fell by 9.7 percentage points to average 59.2% for the month, said AAPA.
Menon said cargo volumes came under pressure due to multiple headwinds. "Higher inflation levels across various economies and the persistently strong US dollar have added to the price pressures for imported commodities and merchandise in local currency terms.”
Looking ahead, Menon said notwithstanding the challenges brought on by the global economic uncertainty, growth prospects for passenger markets look positive for the year ahead.
"The desire to travel remains strong, with latest forward booking trends pointing to sustained high demand. Nevertheless, cost pressures represent a key challenge to airline financial performance, driven by the elevated fuel prices and inflationary pressures on operating expenditure, including labour and maintenance.
"Overall, Asia-Pacific airlines remain vigilant in striving for cost efficiencies whilst restoring flights in the Covid-19 recovery period,” he added.