The airline industry in Asia continues to struggle

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 1, 2022 The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) issued preliminary January 2022 traffic numbers on Monday, showing that international passenger demand remained down relative to pre-pandemic levels as a result of travel restrictions imposed by the Omicron form of the influenza virus.

In January, the area’s airlines transported a total of 2.7 million foreign passengers, accounting for 8.1 percent of the 35.2 million passengers carried during the same month last year in the region. International passenger demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), averaged just 8.9 percent of 2019 levels, while available seat capacity averaged 17.9 percent of 2019 volumes.

The average international passenger load factor was 41.3 percent in May, marking the second consecutive month in which load factors above the 40 percent threshold.

Meanwhile, the international air cargo markets saw additional expansion in the first month of 2022, which was fueled by higher shipments ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday season. Furthermore, although global industrial activity has moderated marginally as a result of the Omicron-related disruptions, it has remained mostly supportive.

Over the course of January, international air cargo demand, as measured in freight tonne-kilometers (FTK), increased by 5.1 percent year on year, adding to the large 20.2 percent annual rise achieved for the whole year 2021, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). After taking into account an 8.5 percent increase in provided freight capacity year on year, the international freight load factor decreased somewhat, by 2.2 percentage points to a still high 69.4 percent.

Subhas Menon, director general of the American Association of Port Authorities, commented on the findings, saying, “Travel limitations, along with uncertainty arising from the surge in Omicron infections, hampered the expected rebound in international travel at the start of the new year.”

“However, in light of rising vaccination rates and the comparatively lower danger of serious sickness from the transmission of the Omicron variety, a growing number of Asian nations have now adapted to living with Covid-19, including reversing or eliminating international travel prohibitions.” As we approach the year 2022, the recovery in international air travel is expected to gain speed.

“Airlines are still dealing with difficult operating circumstances. Increased fuel costs threaten to reduce profitability in an industry that is already fighting to survive.” The recent escalation of the crisis in Ukraine may have a broader operational and economic effect on Asian airlines.

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