Preliminary traffic figures from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show that international passenger markets remained weak in March 2021. Only 1.1 million international passengers flew on the region’s carriers in March, equivalent to 13.2 per cent of passenger volumes in the same month last year when travel was already in sharp decline.
Available seat capacity averaged 27 per cent of the previous year’s volumes, as the majority of the region’s commercial passenger fleets remained grounded. The international passenger load factor fell by 29.4 percentage points to average 23.8 per cent for the month.
In contrast to the travel and tourism sectors, overall rising business confidence and e-commerce growth fuelled air cargo demand, with congestion at shipping ports spurring a shift to the speedier transportation of goods by air.
As a result, international air cargo demand, as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK), grew by 16.1 per cent year-on-year in the month of March, which has been the best performing month since December 2019.
Offered freight capacity rose by a comparatively slower 12.7 per cent year-on-year, leading to a 2.2 percentage point increase in the average international freight load factor to 74.3 per cent for the month.
Subhas Menon, Director General, AAPA, said, “The recent commencement of travel between Australia and New Zealand is certainly a welcome step. In addition, quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Hong Kong, announced for end May, with talks of more travel bubbles in the pipeline, provide hope for a gradual restart of international air travel this year. It is apparent that we will need to learn to live with COVID19. As such, it is imperative that governments across the world embrace harmonised risk-based measures that safely reopen air travel. This includes digitalisation of travel health certificates, as well as the implementation of contactless and seamless travel measures in accordance with ICAO and WHO guidelines, to support travel recovery. The association remains committed in working closely with governments to aid the resumption of air travel in a smart, safe and sustainable way.”