(12 Jan 2022)
Preliminary November 2021 traffic figures from
the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show notable
improvement in international air passenger demand as some
governments in the region begin to relax the strict border restrictions imposed
since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic.
Overall volumes remain significantly depressed as
the 1.6 million international passengers carried by the region’s
airlines in November was just 5.2% of the corresponding
pre-pandemic month in 2019.
Measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), international passenger demand averaged 7.1% of
2019 levels, indicating relative strength of longer haul markets.
Singapore Airlines A350-900 reg: 9V-SMH. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com
Available seat capacity was 16.6% of the same month in 2019, with
the international passenger load factor averaging 34.1% for the
Mr. Subhas Menon, AAPA
Director General said, “For the first eleven months of the year,
international passenger volumes were 4% of the same period in
2019. Although overall traffic volumes remain significantly
depressed compared to pre-pandemic levels, the recent relaxation
of some border restrictions and establishment of vaccinated travel
lanes are welcome moves towards the restoration of international
air travel in the region.”
With COVID19 cases stabilising amidst rising
vaccination rates across the region, improving manufacturing
conditions and strong year-end export orders resulted in another
month of robust growth in international air cargo markets.
For the region’s airlines, international air cargo
demand, in freight tonne kilometre (FTK) terms, grew by 16.5%
year-on-year in November, staying above volumes recorded in the
pre-pandemic months of 2019.
The international freight load factor
remained elevated, averaging 73.2% for the month, after accounting
for an 11.8% year-on-year expansion in offered freight capacity.
“The resilience of the cargo sector
continues to be an important lifeline for the region’s airlines
during this pandemic. On the other hand, oil prices have risen
significantly, with jet fuel prices averaging US$92 per barrel in
November, almost double of the corresponding month in 2020, adding
to the challenges airlines face in a bid to restore
profitability,” said Mr. Menon. “Overall, full restoration of
international air travel remains some way off. The abrupt
re-imposition of travel restrictions by many governments in the
face of the rising spread of the Omicron variant threatens to hold
back the long-awaited revival of Asia’s travel and tourism
industry. Collaboration and coordination of industry stakeholders
across borders are critical to the safe and sustained resumption
of international air travel, without which, the recovery journey
will likely be volatile and uneven.”