International travel demand is still depressed, robust growth in air cargo demand
Preliminary October 2021 traffic figures released today by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) revealed international air passenger demand remained significantly depressed, with the impact from the recent easing of border restrictions yet to be seen. By contrast, air cargo markets were robust, benefitting from sustained global demand and capacity shortages.
In aggregate, only 1.2 million international passengers travelled on the region’s carriers in October, 3.9% of the 31 million passengers recorded in the same month of 2019. Measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), international passenger demand was 5.6% of pre-pandemic levels whilst available seat capacity averaged 14.4% of the corresponding month in 2019. As a result, the international passenger load factor was a lowly 30.9% for the month.
On the other hand, Asia Pacific airlines recorded another month of vigorous growth in international air cargo demand in October, as reflected in the 22.3% year-on-year increase in freight tonne-kilometre (FTK) terms. Offered freight capacity expanded by a significant 20.0% year-on-year, albeit at a relatively slower pace than the growth in demand, leading to an elevated average international freight load factor of 74.2% for the month.
Commenting on the results, Mr Subhas Menon, AAPA Director-General said, “Whilst October continued to be an extremely challenging month for international travel markets, solid orders for consumer goods and industrial components buoyed air cargo demand, especially as retailers sought to increase stock levels ahead of the year-end holiday season and major shopping events. In addition, supply chain congestion at some shipping hubs boosted demand for air shipments.”
Mr Menon added, “While the gradual reopening of borders by governments is a welcome move, what is sorely needed is the harmonisation of travel policies and health protocols, including measures related to testing, vaccination recognition and digital verification. This will reduce complexity and confusion amongst passengers and carriers, which will, in turn, help boost confidence in the travel process.”
Mr Menon concluded, “In order for air travel recovery to be sustained over the coming year, we urge more governments to collaborate across borders on travel measures and health-related protocols, in line with ICAO and WHO guidelines, so that air travel is once again accessible to the wider public.”
TRAFFIC UPDATE – PRELIMINARY International Scheduled Services of Asia Pacific Airlines
Passengers (Thousand) RPK (Million)
ASK (Million) Passenger Load Factor FTK (Million)
FATK (Million) Freight Load Factor
6,442 20,875 30.9% 6,585 8,876 74.2%
Oct-20 % Change
1,001 + 23.6%
4,778 + 34.8% 16,155 + 29.2% 29.6% +1.3pp 5,384 + 22.3% 7,394 + 20.0% 72.8% +1.4pp
56,421 188,492 29.9%
67,761 261,690 410,804 63.7%
– 81.6% – 78.4% – 54.1% – 33.8 pp + 21.1% + 7.2% + 8.6 pp
58,961 48,696 79,186 73,875 74.5% 65.9%
Effective January 2020, the dataset comprises aggregated traffic data from the following 40 Asia Pacific-based carriers: 3K, 5J, 6E, 7C, 9C, 9W, AI, AK, BI, BR, CA, CI, CK, CX, CZ, D7, GA, HO, HU, IX, JL, JQ, KA, KC, KE, KZ, MH, MU, NH, NZ, OZ, PG, PR, QF, SG, SQ, TG, TR, VA and VN.
- Previous year data adjusted for comparison purposes
- RPK = revenue passenger kilometres
- ASK = available seat kilometres
- FTK = freight tonne-kilometres
- FATK = available freight tonne-kilometres
- All figures, including estimates for missing data, are provisional