Traffic data shows ‘dismal’ numbers for region’s airlines in 2020
Asia-Pacific based airlines suffered a huge downturn in traffic in 2020, the extent of the decline being revealed today by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), which says that its members handled only 18% of the passengers they boarded in 2019.
The worst 12 month decline in the history of commercial aviation in the region meant that Asia-Pacific airlines handled just 69 million passengers in 2020 – a staggering 314 million less than the year before.
Offered seat capacity was similarly just 19% of the levels recorded in 2019, while the international passenger load factor averaged a lowly 61%.
Asia-Pacific airlines account for over a third of global air cargo traffic with strong networks and logistics expertise built up over the years.
During the global pandemic, AAPA notes that the region’s carriers have played a vital role in transporting medical supplies including vaccines, personal protective equipment and other essential goods, even though capacity was severely restricted as a result of the wide scale grounding of passenger aircraft.
As global economic activity rebounded in the latter half of the year, the increase in export orders grew with the rising demand for the speedy delivery of merchandise by air.
In December 2020, air cargo demand improved further in freight tonne kilometres (FTK), recording a single digit year on-year decline of 6.4%.
For the calendar year, international air cargo demand fell by 15.5%, whilst offered freight capacity plunged by 24.4%.
The average international freight load factor rose significantly, by 7% to 66.4% in 2020, with cargo yields offering a welcome boost to operating revenue, although airlines continued to face an existential crisis with commercial passenger operations remaining at a standstill.
Commenting on the results, AAPA director general, Subhas Menon, said: “The dismal numbers underline the severity of the impact of the pandemic on the airline industry.
“The discovery of several effective vaccines towards the end of 2020 provided hope that recovery was on the horizon as large scale vaccinations of their people, will give governments the confidence to allow travellers from abroad without restrictions’’.
He added: “It will take time for the roll-out of vaccinations across the world, as well as for the pandemic to recede globally.
“Looking ahead, many industry challenges remain, as restrictions on cross border travel will continue to affect air travel demand in 2021. We encourage governments to step up coordination efforts on cross border risk mitigation measures and health protocols.
“The implementation of harmonised protocols, incorporating the ICAO CART Take-Off Guidance, is imperative for the safe resumption of travel. Asia Pacific aviation is ready and willing to play its part in the successful restart and recovery in the region.”