January figures from AAPA show steady growth in passenger traffic
Preliminary January 2023 traffic figures released by the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (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.
According to a press release, "Overall, the region’s airlines carried a combined 17.2 million international passengers in January, more than seven times the volumes recorded in the same month last year, when demand was still dampened by travel restrictions across the region. Traffic as measured in revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) jumped 466.9%, underpinned by robust regional travel demand. Available seat capacity also expanded markedly, but by a comparatively slower 195.0% year-on-year. 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."
Meanwhile, subdued global economic conditions led to a significant 20.5% year-on-year decline in international air cargo demand, as measured in freight ton kilometers (FTK). 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.
“International passenger markets enjoyed a strong start to the year in 2023," Subhas Menon, AAPA Director General, said. "Strong demand buoyed by an increase in leisure travelers 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. But 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 added, “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.”