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Preliminary traffic results for the full calendar year 2021 released today by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) showed continued decimation in international air passenger demand for the region’s airlines.
Overall, the 16.7 million international passengers carried in the year 2021 represented just 4.4% of the volumes recorded in pre-pandemic 2019, whilst offered seat capacity averaged 13.8% of the levels registered in 2019. For the full year, the international passenger load factor was a paltry 32%, underscoring the ongoing challenging conditions faced by the region’s airlines in the passenger sector.
Air cargo lifeline
On the other hand, international air cargo markets saw encouraging growth over the course of the year. With major manufacturing hubs located in the region, Asia Pacific airlines benefitted from buoyant export demand for consumer and intermediate goods. In addition, supply chain bottlenecks at container shipping ports boosted demand for shipments by air.
For the full year 2021, international air cargo demand as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK) registered a robust 20.1% year-on-year increase, after posting a 15.4% annual decline in the year 2020 when the widening spread of the COVID-19 pandemic severely curbed economic growth across the world.
Compared to the growth in demand, offered freight capacity expanded at a markedly slower pace of 8.1% in 2021, as the drastically reduced international passenger operations adversely affected belly-hold cargo capacity, although this was partly mitigated by the deployment of cargo-only passenger flights and increased freighter operations.
As a result, the international freight load factor climbed 7.4 percentage points to 74.3%, the highest annual average on record.
“The air cargo business segment has been a silver lining for the aviation industry, with strong demand helping to partially mitigate the loss in passenger revenue.”Mr. Subhas Menon, AAPA Director General
Overall, whilst 2021 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years for the region’s airlines, it has also demonstrated the industry’s extraordinary resilience as airlines continue to play a vital role in connecting people and transporting essential goods across the world, also stated the Press Release.