(03/10/22)  Preliminary August 2022 traffic figures from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) show robust recovery in international air passenger markets as pent-up travel demand continued to drive growth, despite increasingly challenging global economic conditions.

In August, the region’s airlines carried a combined total of 13.1 million international passengers, compared to just 1.4 million recorded in the same month last year and 39% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels. As measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), demand grew by 501.3% while available seat capacity was up by 174.5% compared to a year ago. As a result, the international passenger load factor jumped by 42.3 percentage points to average 77.9% for the month.

Thai Airways and Thai Smile aircraft at BKK. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

Thai Airways and Thai Smile aircraft at BKK. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com

Subhas Menon, AAPA Director General, said, “The healthy growth in international passenger traffic in the first eight months of the year shows strong travel demand from business and leisure sectors, even as persistently high inflation curtailed spending elsewhere.”

Demand for exports waned during the month of August, further dampening air cargo markets. As a result, international air cargo demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK), declined by 7.9% year-on-year. Offered freight capacity, however, expanded by 5.2% with ongoing recovery in commercial passenger operations adding available bellyhold space which led to a sharp 9.5 percentage point fall in the average international freight load factor to 66.4% in August.

“After more than two painful years into the pandemic, the region’s carriers are finally beginning to see some relief with the continuing upswing in passenger revenue, even as the cargo business remains weakened. Although cost pressures driven by high jet fuel prices and currency weakness have not abated, the rebound in travel markets will help support an improvement in the regional airline earnings performance,” Mr. Menon added. “Amid an increasingly gloomy macroeconomic outlook, the lifting of travel restrictions in the major North Asian markets of Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong will hasten the pace of the industry’s return to health, while full recovery is not expected until China is also open. The cooperation of all stakeholders is key to facilitating a smooth recovery in air travel.”

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