Preliminary traffic figures from the Association
of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) for April 2020 show just how much
damage the ongoing global COVID19 pandemic has caused to
international air passenger markets.
The rapid spread of the virus, resulting in border
closures and travel restrictions across the world, forced an
almost complete shutdown of international airline operations.
Air cargo markets remained active but were affected by
weakening demand, and disruptions to global supply chains,
including the sharp reduction in passenger belly-hold capacity.
Overall, Asia Pacific airlines saw international
passenger numbers plunge 98.8% year-on-year to a combined total of
just 368,000 passengers in April compared to the 31.9 million
carried in the same month last year. The average international
passenger load factor slumped to a historical low of 28.0% for the
month as available seat capacity declined by 94.6%.
With the COVID19 crisis escalating in many
countries, community-wide lockdowns and social distancing measures
dampened consumer demand leading to a marked slowdown in global
trade and manufacturing activity. As a result, Asian airlines saw
air cargo demand, as measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTK),
fall by 28.3% year-on-year in April.
In addition, the grounding of most of the region's
passenger fleets further reduced air cargo capacity in the market.
Although partly mitigated by additional freighter operations and
the deployment of cargo-only passenger flights, offered freight
capacity fell by 38.3%, leading to a 9.4 percentage point increase
in the average international freight load factor to 67.5% for the
Mr. Subhas Menon, AAPA
Director General, said, "The April traffic numbers underscore the
devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global air travel
markets. Uncertainty remains as to how long the crisis will
persist. Nevertheless, with infection curves showing signs of
flattening, it is hoped that conditions are beginning to bottom
out. Whilst severe travel restrictions continue to
limit the early restart of aviation activity, there are some
encouraging signs in the market. A number of airlines have begun
restoring domestic flights, whilst a small number of international
flights are still being operated, with plans to operate additional
services as border restrictions are progressively relaxed.
However, patchy, uncoordinated measures across countries,
including various screening protocols and often onerous quarantine
requirements, are deterring passengers from flying, and slowing
the process of restarting aviation."
Mr. Menon concluded, "The countries in the Asia
Pacific region were the first to encounter COVID19 and are the
first to witness some stabilisation and degree of control over the
spread of the disease. Hopefully, the region can also lead the
much-needed recovery in air travel. The progressive resumption of
international air services will only be possible if a globally
harmonised, outcome-based mitigation framework is adopted across
countries. We welcome ICAO's leadership in setting up its COVID19
Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) to recommend strategic
priorities and policies for States and industry operators. Asia
Pacific airlines remain committed to working closely with
governments and relevant international bodies towards a timely
restoration of air services, and supporting the revival of trade,
tourism, economic and social activity."